An IDF online blog post revealed the full story Friday, of Lt. Eitan, who tried to save the life of Lt. Hadar Goldin during combat in the Gaza Strip. It was originally feared that Goldin had been kidnapped, but the IDF post detailed that it was largely due to Eitan's discovery of blood and his comrade's equipment that Goldin was determined to have been killed in action.
According to the IDF blog, Eitan and Goldin first became acquainted during the commander's course that must be passed by any IDF soldier slotted to be a leader.
The incident leading to Goldin's death occurred just two hours after a temporary ceasefire had been announced in the Gaza Strip at 8am on Friday, August 1.
Lt. Eitan ran alone through a Gazan smuggling tunnel when Hadar Goldin was taken captive. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
The IDF post said that Eitan and his fellow troopers in the Givati Brigade were taking turns on guard duty while the others took advantage of the lull to sleep after a full 24 hours awake and on the move.
Suddenly, the IDF post said that Hamas militants broke the ceasefire and fired at the guards, including Lt. Goldin. The gunfire was matched a disorienting explosion, said the IDF post, and Eitan's squad jumped into action, rushing to the aid of their fellow soldiers.
"When I arrived, I saw two of our soldiers being taken into a house," said Eitan in the blog article. "It was the same moment that we were told that we had found a tunnel opening at the location."
Then came the moment everyone had feared. "No one really knew what had happened but suddenly someone shouted, 'Goldin's gone, Goldin's disappeared.' We quickly started counting soldiers and everyone was present except one: Goldin was missing," Eitan told the IDF.
Eitan then said that he realized that Goldin had been dragged into the tunnel. According to the IDF blog, he informed his brigade commander over the radio and leapt for the tunnel to go after Goldin.
Lt. Hadar Goldin. (Photo: Reproduction by Ido Erez)
"I went four meters down into the tunnel when it began to collapse," he said. "I could hardly see anything; sand and stones were obscuring the light. I returned to the surface, took my equipment, my helmet and fun, and went back into the tunnel with my soldiers."
The IDF article said that the Lieutenant descended into the tunnel a second time with some of his soldiers. "There, I saw Hadar's blood and his equipment," he said.
Then, the IDF says that Lt. Eitan abandoned protocol and said to his commander that he was going further into the possibly booby-trapped tunnel to find Goldin. "Count how long I'm here. I will run as fast as possible to reach the tunnel's entrance. During this time, call the other soldiers into the tunnel. If I'm not back in five minutes, I'm dead."
According to the official blog, Eitan ran through the tunnel for some 10 minutes passing weapons and explosives as well as forks in the tunnel system leading to different destinations. The IDF said that Eitan eventually turned back, fearing for his own safety alone, deep in the tunnel.
Shortly after midnight that Saturday night, Goldin's family was informed that officials had determined that the Lieutenant was killed in action. Eitan visited Goldin's family before the announcement of his death, coming straight from the front in Gaza before he even had time to return home.