Even in the darkest times, we shine the brightest

Opinion: In a daring operation comparable to the freeing of hostages from Entebbe in 1976, the IDF and other security forces prove to us they are working well since October 7; Israeli society comes together to celebrate hostages' rescue

"There is an hour of roaring darkness, but there is also dawn and radiance," wrote the prophetic poem by the poet Anadad Eldan, a member of Kibbutz Be'eri. For months, we walked in the roaring darkness. The brave operation which rescued four hostages was celebrated all over Israel and gave us an hour of light.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Marko Djurica, Maayan Tuaf/GPO, IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Noa Argamani, who was kidnapped and taken on a motorcycle on October 7 from the Nova music festival, became one of the symbols of the hostages held in Gaza. Shlomi Ziv had a heartfelt conversation with his wife, "You're the king of the world," she cried out. Almog Meir Jan exited the helicopter with his arms raised in victory when he arrived at Sheba Medical Center. Andrey Kozlov was seen happy accompanied by special forces
Like echoes, this radiance spreads within Israeli society. From the Israelis' response to the announcement of the operation, one could feel a unique feeling of a collective emotional investment. For Israelis, every captive is a personal matter. Lifeguards on Ashkelon and Tel Aviv's beaches informed the sunbathers that four hostages had been rescued alive and well. Secular Jews informed their Sabbath-observant neighbors.
Nothing can take away these moments from Israelis. The closest thing to this operation is the rescue of hostages highjacked on board an Air France flight and taken to Entebbe in Uganda in 1976. Israeli forces battled the hijackers and their Ugandan helpers to free the captives.
Nobody can destroy this collective Israeli sentiment, not even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who suddenly discovered the hostages' families. The precise way to describe his behavior was articulated by the father of Noa Marciano, who was murdered near the Shifa Hospital by Hamas terrorists: "When the situation is bad, the prime minister does not come and he doesn't call."
"We have to be realistic. There won't be another ten successful operations like this that will rescue dozens of hostages held by Hamas," said a senior security official. He warned that Israel can't buy into the dream that we're invincible. He added that the realistic way to return the hostages is in an exchange deal.
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פעילות כוחות צה"ל ממבצע החילוץ של החטופים ברצועת עזה
פעילות כוחות צה"ל ממבצע החילוץ של החטופים ברצועת עזה
IDF soldiers during Operation Arnon
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Congratulations are in order, for the IDF, Southern Command, the director of the Shin Bet, and the Chief of Staff. The entire operation was conducted by Brigade 98 in Nuseirat and was supposed to pave the way for the rescue of the hostages. The three men were held in a building on the third floor while Noa Argamani was held on the first floor of another building.
It was a very delicate operation, close enough to the hostages, but not too close to cause the terrorists to move the captives. The fighting was done without arousing suspicion, until the command was given, and various forces, most of them reservists, stormed into the heart of the camp.
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Daring IDF operation in Gaza
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was deeply involved in the operation's planning with Shin Bet director Ronen Bar and Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi having served in special forces. "Only people who served in these places are willing to take such risks, and sometimes it doesn't work," said a security official. The minister dealt with the operational details and met the troops the night before the operation. One of them was Arnon Zamora who was killed during the heroic extraction lending his name to the entire operation.
Halevi had to make a crucial, extraordinary, and successful decision. The Chief of Staff, who assumed personal responsibility for the failings on October 7 and continues to do so, required peak performance on Saturday for the high-risk operation. Imagine waking up on Saturday morning of a failed operation, captives murdered, soldiers killed, and perhaps some abducted. What would they say about the IDF, and about the security forces, then?
The operation did not go exactly as planned. First, Arnon Zamora, the team leader, was wounded and killed which caused an unexpected delay. Every minute wasted means more terrorists can appear out of nowhere, armed with RPGs and AK-47s. The Air Force had to provide air support to ensure the troops' extraction.
Second, Hamas opened fire at the truck with the rescued hostages, rendering it useless. The operation could have been doomed at that point, but luckily the IDF prepared alternative plans. Finally, the hostages were rescued in APCs and taken to waiting helicopters on the beachfront.
It was easy to detect Hamas's complete panic. They lost their minds in frustration and accused the Israelis of using American forces for the operation, of using the humanitarian pier, lying about the death of 18 IDF soldiers in the operation. All lies. "In great moments of defeat, they return to the mentality of 1967," an officer who was involved in the operation noted, "One should worry when they speak the truth."
The IDF and the defense establishment know how to deliver results. The question is what the political echelon does with them. Dozens of hostages are still in the captivity of Hamas. their condition has likely worsened because the Hamas security measures would be tightened after Saturday's extraction. The success of Operation Arnon allows the government to do one of two things: either boast and declare they have beaten Hamas, or act responsibly and work toward a deal that will release the rest of the hostages.
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