A wounded battalion commander rescued an abducted French tourist and carried on fighting. A brigade commander got into three separate tanks, one after another, ran over Hamas vehicles and then shelled the besieged police station in Sderot where terrorists resisted troops.
Reservists fought, to the very end, in the harshest conditions, alongside young soldiers. We can assume that, when the war is over, dozens and perhaps hundreds of citations and decorations for heroism will be awarded, many for the actions of the fighters following the surprise attack. They cobbled together what forces they could, planned assaults in minutes, and halted terrorists.
"By 7 o’clock on Saturday morning, I already I realized this was different," recalls the 401st Brigade Commander, Col. Benny Aharon.
With not a shred of intelligence, as horrifying information kept coming in from the field, Col. Aharon arrived at Nahal Oz and saw a tank on the road. "I said to the crew commander: 'Give me the tank'. I drove to Kibbutz Re'im, I saw Hamas vans on the way and just ran over them. The terrorists threw explosives at the tank, but the tank kept going. I arrived at the location of the rave that was attacked with the last drop of fuel." In there, near Reim, Col. Aharon could no longer operate the tank. Then, Col. Nissim Hazan called him. He said that there was a tank a few miles away that had been hit. To try to get to the tank Brigade Commander Aharonsearched for keys to the cars of the youngsters at the party – to no success. "Then a civilian offered to drive me" he recalls. "We dashed to the tank. We drove to Be’eri, realized that the gate was booby-trapped and that there was an anti-tank squad there, so we bypassed it and I tore down the fence with the tank breaking into the kibbutz."
By evening, he’d made it to Sderot, where a SWAT (Yamam) team surrounding the police station realized how hard it was to get the barricaded terrorists out. “They called me to come with the tank into Sderot, so I called my second sergeant, Col. Shalom Eisner and within minutes, he positioned a tank at the entrance to the town.” He positioned himself above the police station and started shelling it, but the frame of the building remained intact and the terrorists were inside. “ Col. Aharon called a friend for advice. “He says we should aim at the lower part of the building. It worked – and the building was set on fire, suffocating the terrorists.”
“I thought I’d wake up from this bizarre dream” he recalls. I was focused on the task although it was emotionally very hard. I just kept thinking about the country. I saw they’d put Hamas flags on our tanks. Yes, a tank is a symbol, but the people inside it are more important.
Cadets at the School for Infantry Corps Professions and Squad Commanders (Bislamach 17) spent Shabbat on the base. Lt. Col. Ran Cna’an commands the 450th battalion. “I told everyone to get on buses.” Reports were coming in. “We went to Re’im. We got off the buses and advanced on foot. An Israeli vehicle approached us. Something wasn’t right about it,” the lieutenant colonel recalls. I realized it was a terrorist and I shot” Cna’an tells us. “I opened the trunk and I found a female French tourist who’d been abducted from the party – tied up, but alive.”
I carried on to Kissufim. I joined a Golani company commander and a deputy military security coordinator. We divided the kibbutz into sectors and began cleansing it of terrorists. “The battles were hard. Cna’an lost soldiers from his battalion and the terrorists controlled key positions inside the kibbutz. He retreated to re-plan the assault and then noticed that one of the squad commanders had been shot and was injured. The battalion commander ran to help him and was himself shot. “I had the strength to crawl backward with him. I put tourniquets and bandages on both of us and we carried on fighting.”
By midday, he needed to evacuate. Lt. Col Cna’an was transferred from the Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva to the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv, in moderate condition which has stabilized. Like so many of his injured friends, he expects to get back into the field “We were surprised, but not defeated.”