Maj. Shira, 29, who served as the deputy commanding officer in the IDF’s Bardelas Battalion, returned to the unit following the outset of the war against Hamas and received a special mission to carry out.
"About three weeks ago, we received an order from the commander to assemble a team of the best and most professional female combat soldiers, to carry out a special operation within the Gaza Strip, assisting in ongoing combat and gathering of military intelligence. We fight alongside men and in collaboration with special operations units," she said.
The team of female soldiers, led by Maj. Shira, joined ground forces and special forces units deep within the Gaza Strip for a confidential mission, whose details are classified. The female soldiers, stationed in an area with high civilian population density, constitute a significant force on the ground, and have carried out significant achievements in the fighting, contributing to the ongoing war and Israel’s maneuvering in Gaza.
Capt. Pnina, 26, who recently completed her role as a company commander in the battalion, is a significant part of the mission’s force. "As soon as the war began, we did things that had not been done by the battalion before," she explained.
"We arrived at Gaza from a location close to the Egyptian border, a space spanning over 200 km. It's insane. A large force from the battalion came to Holit to help, evacuate the wounded, and engage terrorists. Initially, we held the defensive line in the surrounding area, something that hadn't happened before."
Both commanders, however, say launching a ground operation in the Strip isn’t a simple matter. "It’s a great moment, another glass ceiling that’s been shattered, and it's exciting both as commanders in the IDF and as women,” Maj. Shira said. “We've experienced numerous violent incidents, and know what it’s like to be shot at. Yet, entering Gaza is different.”
“Moreover, we have a tremendous responsibility to bring every female combat soldier back home. I’m very proud of them; they give it their all," she added.
Capt. Pnina explained, "It's one of the scariest, most exciting, and meaningful events to take part in. When you get inside, it’s a battlefield. You see, hear, and smell everything. October 7 was a turning point; everything we've experienced since then is very complex.”
“We have mixed emotions; there's no person in Israel who hasn't lost someone or has been affected somehow. The ground offensive is a significant event, but everyone here is focused, and have tremendous motivation to continue."
Capt. Pnina added that the war has also changed the IDF’s perception of allowing more female soldiers into combat roles seeing their effectiveness on the ground. “This started before the war, but it has now become a publicly discussed topic.”
Maj. Shira added, "We see the attitude is changing; we pass through Israeli communities and see the looks of the residents. We receive much feedback on our professionalism, which feels natural for us, especially in the field. We strive to complete the mission in the best way possible."