“I heard a gunshot from someone, I don’t know exactly who, which stopped the truck. I went down to the lower stair of the bus and shot in the direction of the terrorist, toward his window. There were also cadets on the side who found cover and there were those who also shot. I was not alone. I really wasn’t,” Peled said.
Speaking after attending the funeral of Shira Tzur in Haifa who was killed in the attack, Peled was commanding a group of soldiers standing next to the semitrailer when the attack took place, and was lightly injured as a result. Erez Orbach, Shir Hajaj and Yael Yakutiel were also laid to rest on Monday.
The incident and the apparent delayed reaction of the soldiers added a stronger impetus to the ongoing debate in Israel, with many claiming that the hesitation stemmed directly from the verdict reached last week against Sgt. Elor Azaria who shot a seriously wounded terrorist. The suggested correlation however, has been categorically rejected by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Moreover, Peled, who was accompanying the cadets during an educational activity, suggests that any hesitation emanated from the need to determine whether the incident was indeed an attack or an accident, rather than anything else.
“I saw the terrorist mount the lawn at full speed. At the same moment, really at the same moment, we were loading. I realized that this was something unusual. It looked really terrible, but we were not certain that this was a vehicular attack. At the same time I inserted my magazine into the gun and when he started reversing we realized that this was definitely an attack,” she said.
Shortly after, she recalled, Peled heard the first shots and then decided to pull the trigger herself. “There were a lot of people who took part in a cool headed manner,” she said.
Peled emphasized that not everyone fired on the terrorist and justified their fleeing of the scene on logical and tactical grounds. “We took a few steps forward and pointed our guns at the terrorist, and there were others who had to escape the terrorist’s path. In my opinion, it is completely legitimate and logical to run away from the terrorist’s path. I think the person who should shoot in an incident like this is someone who actually has the capability. In other words, not someone who is located on the route,” she insisted.
“It has to be someone who has a shot from the side, who has the right angle. So there were those who ran away because they were on the terrorist’s path,” Peled said in an effort to explain what many misinterpreted as the mere fleeing from a danger scene.
She also said that no order to open fire had been explicitly given, but nor was one necessary. “You don’t need an order to open fire. It was a difficult incident by all accounts, it was difficult for me on a personal level but I think at an operational level things were carried out at their highest level.”
When asked directly whether the verdict against Elor Azaria influenced the response against the terrorist, Peled was unequivocal: “Not for one even one second did the thought enter my head and I don’t think it did for the other cadets, or the commanders because the fact is that most of the people situated in the right place did act.”