Wounded IDF officer asked: 'When am I going back to Gaza?'
21-year-old officer from Dimona who was hurt by Palestinian sniper fire on Wednesday evening did not want to be evacuated, his parents say, because he was worried about his soldiers being left alone; 'My soldiers are here, I'm not going,' he told paramedics.
"He asked the doctors, 'When am I going back to Gaza?' I told him he's not going back, and he said his soldiers were alone," the father said. "He opened his eyes and squeezed my hand tight."
The 21-year-old officer from Dimona recounted the incident to his father. "He said the children were rioting by the border fence, and then he felt a strong blow," the father said.
Despite this, the officer didn't want to be evacuated. "A helicopter came within minutes (to evacuate him). He said he was fine because he wanted to stay with his soldiers," the father said.
The officer's mother elaborated further. "He was shouting and didn't want to be evacuated. He said: 'My soldiers are here, I'm not going,'" she said. "His friends said he wanted to stay with his soldiers because there was a whole mess there."
Both parents said their son wasn't just worried about his soldiers, but also about them. He called his father after he was wounded, telling him: "Dad, I love you. I was hit with a bullet to the stomach."
"He told me, 'Dad, be strong, don't cry,'" the father added.
"He heard me cry, but he indicated he was okay with his hand. He raised his hand, which is connected to all the machines, and held mine strongly. I told him I loved him and that everything is okay," the mother said.
"He wanted to be a combat soldier even though I wouldn't let him," the mother recalled. "He told me: 'You won't stand in my way. I will protect my country, I have no other country.' Despite the fact we lost a girl to illness 10 years ago, he went on to commanders' course and infantry officers' course. He went to Gaza, to the border."
Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi, who was killed from sniper fire on Friday, was a friend of the officer who was wounded Wednesday.
"He took it (Levi's death) very hard," the officer's father said.
The officer was taken to the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva in serious-to-moderate condition. After undergoing surgery, he was moved to intensive care in moderate and stable condition.
According to an initial investigation, Palestinian terrorists opened fire on IDF troops from the Givati Brigade's Tzabar Infantry Battalion who were conducting routine operations near the border fence when they were called to to disperse a “bait” riot staged by children to lure soldier within the sniper’s range.
The initial investigation found the officer was wearing full protective gear, including ceramic armor and helmet.
IDF investigators are checking whether the sniper who hit the IDF officer Wednesday was the same one who shot Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi five days prior.
The sniper is believed to be a member of one of the smaller factions in Gaza that do not answer to Hamas. However, since Hamas controls the border area, the IDF sees it as responsible for everything that happens there.
Three Palestinians belonging to the Hamas military wing were killed while another Palestinian was critically wounded in a retaliatory IDF attack on seven Hamas outposts along the border.
uriel Gur David (Radio Darom) contributed to this report.