"I was already in the command center at 5:30am on October 7, just doing a regular drill," says Lieutenant T, a female soldier in charge of the observation division in an artillery command post in the southern brigade of the Gaza division, "An hour into the drill, we were suddenly hit by a storm of gunfire. I dashed into the command center, my team hot on my heels.
"Not even a minute in, one of my girls tells me she sees a tractor coming our way. Right then, I knew this wasn't just any old situation. This was something off the charts. I ordered the observer to signal 'invasion.' That's code for terrorists breaking into our country, looking to cause harm. That's the difference between an infiltration and an invasion. They were literally storming us," recalls Lieutenant T.
Across all IDF bases near the border with Gaza, the military runs drills every now and then, acting out what to do if there's an invasion - making sure everyone's got their moves down for when that kind of crisis hits. "I started in this role about seven months back," Lt. T said, "and I just had this gut feeling that my sector would be the one to face an invasion. I just knew it in my bones." When crunch time came, there were eight women soldiers in the command center.
"While we were sounding the alarm about the invasion, I got calls from other female lookouts saying, 'there's a raid on my end too.' In the span of three minutes, they'd broken through our fence at seven different points, and at each spot, there were a whole bunch of them. We know how to spot these terrorists. The first ones in are the Nukhba (elite forces) terrorists, decked out in weapons from head to toe, and they were followed by others. I saw it with my own eyes - they were coming in on motorcycles, vans, tractors, cars, you name it," she explains.
"When the invasions all start happening at once, I just declare an 'invasion' alert and flag all the breach points," she explains. At that moment, Lt. T's main goal is to operate Roeh-Yoreh (a system for spotting and taking out terrorists) and try to stop as many terrorists as she can, because she knows that it's just a matter of time before they get to her and her team at the outpost.
"I get on the Roeh-Yoreh and try to make it work. Then, everything goes downhill. I had six targets, three of which dropped pretty early on, and with the other three, I took my shots but they went down after a bit too. I'm seeing all these invasions happening and I can tell where this is headed," Lt. T continues.
"I tell one of my girls to get everyone into the situation room ASAP. A minute and a half later, we're all bolting into the room - it's also our bomb shelter. By then, I can see the terrorists running toward us. I need to see all my girls with me. I told myself, if we're going to die, we're going to die together," she said.
"Thirty minutes into the attack, there are 22 of us girls holed up in the Kissufim Situation Room. Then the shootout starts. Egoz Special Forces are called in and start to clear out the base. They're going toe-to-toe with dozens of terrorists, stopping them from capturing the post. You could clearly hear the gunfire inside our command center," she said. Lt T and the other soldiers are all huddled there, praying to get out of this alive.
At the same time, Lt. Col. Nati and Capt. Elya are making their way to the post. "As soon as we set foot inside, we're hit with a hailstorm of bullets," according to Capt. Elya. "It was an all-out ambush. We went from calm to chaos, thrown into the fiercest battle you can imagine. There are soldiers getting hurt left and right.
"There's a wounded Golani soldier lying on the ground, telling us he's been fighting off the terrorists pretty much on his own. There are terrorists on the rooftops and in shipping containers, raining down bullets on us, even throwing explosives and firing RPGs."
Lt. Col. Nati keeps going with an Egoz soldier, heading straight for where the gunfire is coming from. "We got a lock on one of the terrorists and started a firefight. He was taking cover and firing back at us, and this went on for a few minutes. Then we noticed he stopped shooting. We figured he'd been hit. We moved in and after a sweep of the area, we found him. He was down on the ground, lifeless," according to Lt. Col. Nati.
Back to Lt. T. The battles are taking place outside, and she, meanwhile, is locked in a situation room that is increasingly filled with soldiers. "All measures failed. We hear the sounds of gunshots. I instruct all the girls to get under the tables and be quiet. It crosses my mind that death is near, and I hope there will be survivors here. I tried to talk to all of them, to calm them down," she explains.
"Slowly, each of us began to come out of her hiding place and sit in lookout positions. At the same time, others began to take care of the wounded. A difficult scene. People are bleeding, fainting, shouting. But you are so immersed in the action that everything passes by because you are fighting for your home," she says.
"On our screens, we can see there's a full-on battle going on in Kibbutz Kissufim. I manage to get in touch with a combat helicopter and an attack drone. With my girls, we're able to take control of our positions and box in a lot of the terrorists. At the same time, I get hold of the tank in my sector and tell them there's a terrorist coming their way from the north. They manage to take him out. That's how we spend five hours, controlling the sector and directing our firepower to take down the terrorists. The longer it goes on, the safer we start to feel."
Lt. T, working alongside the tank and gunship, manages to take down a bunch of terrorists who were trying to storm the kibbutz and the outpost. They end up staying in the situation room longer than expected, and she does her best to keep everyone on their toes. "We didn't have any electricity or water. There was nothing in the room and everyone was parched," she recalls.
"I gathered water from any container I could find - leftover water in a kettle, a few nearly empty bottles. There were close to 60 of us, some injured, others having panic attacks. I poured a few drops of water into some disposable cups we had and handed them out. I had a bit of honey left from Rosh Hashanah, so I went around and everyone took a fingerful, just a little something sweet for energy. It felt like we were in a war of attrition, with the terrorists right outside and the fighting just not letting up."
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Nati and the Egoz soldiers are still in the thick of it. "I stepped into the room and saw people who were hurt and worn out. The female lookouts were on edge. We managed to get dozens of people out. That's when I ran into Lt T., she's a real hero. She wouldn't leave the situation room until all her soldiers were out and the fighting had stopped. We took care of the injured, and the whole time I had an officer stationed at the entrance to make sure no terrorists got in. The soldiers in there were heroes, fighting to their last bullet. I saw soldiers with five completely spent magazines," he recalls.
Since the events of October 7, the IDF has rebuilt the Kissufim outpost. Lt. T has already managed to return to the command center and operate the many forces in the sector. Her soldiers are still recovering at home, but she is sure they will return soon. "Despite the fear that I might die, I realized already in those hours that this is a real war. A war for our home. Therefore, it is important for me to return to the command center and do everything I can to ensure we win," she asserts.