'We arrived as a small force, and gathered more troops at each outpost'

Elite counterterrorism unit Team Peled troops diverted from their usual sector on October 7, fending off terrorists and likely saving entire communities
Among 80th Division forces, there was an understanding that the Gaza Division would come to the rescue during times of crisis.
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In September, a command exercise simulated a scenario of infiltrators from the Egyptian border attacking communities in the Ramat HaNegev region. The Gaza Division came to aid.
3 View gallery
   לוחצי צוות פלד בגבול ניצנה
   לוחצי צוות פלד בגבול ניצנה
Team Peled
(Photo: Gadi Kabalo)
However, on October 7, it was the soldiers from the Paran Brigade, part of the 80th Division, who stepped in to support the overwhelmed Gaza Division.
The decision to move northward saved the lives of hundreds, if not more, of residents of southern Gaza border communities. The division commander ordered the expansion of command boundaries toward the border region, leading forces to undertake actions opposite to their usual operations.
Units comprised of civilians and individual soldiers flowed into the border region, lacking command and control. The commander of the Paran Brigade, led by Lt. Col. Shemer Raviv, gathered forces from reconnaissance, engineering, infantry, artillery, and combat helicopters, and they almost completely prevented the infiltrators from crossing Highway 232 to the east. Those who were an integral part of the force that prevented Kibbutz Holit from becoming a massacre were the Team Peled troops.
The team, named after Yair Peled, who commanded the Paratroopers reconnaissance unit, was killed by Bedouins in 1959 while navigating the Sagi mountain area. In 2018, the team was established in his honor: IDF veterans, residents of the Ramat HaNegev region, responsible for responding to terror events in the desert along the Egyptian border.
At 9:00 am on Saturday, the Peled Team fighters encountered terrorists for the first time on Highway 232, not far from the village of Yated. It was there that the first fighter, captain (res.) Iftach Gorny fell. The deputy commander of the team, S., a reservist sergeant major, and Y., a reservist captain, recounted, "The team engaged without armored vehicles, without our heavy equipment. We gathered three tanks and a combat unit with us. At each position, we gathered forces on the way to the forefront and the Gaza border region. We had to continue to Sufa Base and traveled on Highway 10 to bypass Holit and reach the base."
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ההרס בקיבוץ חולית לאחר ה-7 באוקטובר
ההרס בקיבוץ חולית לאחר ה-7 באוקטובר
Kibbutz Holit
(Photo: Shir Azulay)
The Paran Brigade led the force, and suddenly they stopped: "The first thing I see is a column of terrorists, some on foot, some on motorcycles, and some in cars. At first, I didn't realize they were terrorists. I got out of the vehicle and heard gunfire. Then we were simply under fire." The firefight was accompanied by anti-tank fire. The terrorists reported back to get cover.
For about three hours, they engaged in combat with around 40 terrorists. Y. recalled, "We sustained heavy fire and they used everything they had. After an hour, the tanks arrived and opened a flank for us, followed by combat helicopters. We were a small and limited force, but the terrorists understood that we were a strong force. The kibbutz that was attacked was intended to reach the Sha'ar HaNegev region. In hindsight, the initial confrontation at Yated stopped the southern effort aimed at settlements in the Sha'ar HaNegev region. We didn't know this until two weeks later. Most of the force, including several hundred en route, realized they couldn't advance and returned to Gaza. They thought they didn't have enough forces."
It wasn't until 2:00 PM that the tanks broke through the gate of Kibbutz Holit. "We didn't know we were facing Nuhba battalions," said S. "After that, we realized it wasn't a typical terrorist infiltration but rather a killing spree. When we entered Holit, there were between 50 to 60 terrorists there. We weren't prepared for that."
The terrorists awaited the soldiers. A sniper hiding in the orchards killed Sergeant Major (res.) Liran Mones Almosnino. The soldiers began to take control of the situation and extract families from the bomb shelters. The first house belonged to the Sultan family. "When they opened the door, they looked like the walking dead."
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   לוחצי צוות פלד בגבול ניצנה
   לוחצי צוות פלד בגבול ניצנה
(Photo: Gadi Kabalo)
84 members of Kibbutz Holit were in the kibbutz when the war broke out. 15 were killed, three of whom were kibbutz members. Six were kidnapped from Holit, and four were later released. Two are still held captive, Youssef Hamis Ziyadne, 53, and Hamza Ziyadne, who worked in the orchard at the kibbutz. The Rozinsky couple was severely injured, along with their 6-year-old granddaughter. They are still hospitalized in the rehabilitation department of Ichilov Hospital, hoping to return to Kiryat Shmona as soon as possible.
"We understood that when trouble arises from Egypt - and it's not 'if' but 'when' - our scenario would be similar to what the Islamic State did to the Egyptian forces," says T.
"What Hamas did to border region. The army could not provide a proper response to the situation; the is a need for a trained unit that could neutralize terrorists and is familiar with the terrain."
There is no doubt that the Peled Team fighters turned the table in southern Gaza. Perhaps because of this fact, it's worth taking a moment to understand how they emerged. They grew from the ground up, equipped with donations from the United States and Norway.
"There was no one to defend the communities of Patish and Nitzana," explains Eran Doron, head of the Ramat Negev Regional Council. "There was no fence, nothing. Hamas began operating in Sinai. They arose from the understanding that if there was infiltration from Egypt, we couldn't rely on the IDF."
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