Sgt. Aviv fought in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge. Now, he describes what he saw and experienced on the battlefield. “And then, he grabbed a woman and used her as a shield.”
Sgt. Aviv, the commander of the Sniper Squad of the IDF (Zahal) Paratroopers Brigade, entered Gaza with the purpose of dismantling Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure, including the vast underground tunnel network built to infiltrate and attack Israel. “My soldiers and I were prepared, both mentally and physically. We knew why we were going in,” said Sgt. Aviv. “The company commander got on the radio and said, “pick up your bags’ and we started walking.”
“It didn’t feel real until we passed the security fence. Even though nothing really changed, you could feel something different in the air. As the sun began to rise, we reached our first operational area. We knew that there were two tunnel shafts in the area, and we ended up finding two more – altogether four shafts.” In order to provide cover for the tanks operating nearby and the soldiers tasked with detonating the tunnel shafts in the area, Sgt. Aviv’s soldiers set up sniping positions.
Using Human Shields
“On our second day inside Gaza we moved to a different house; it’s safer not to stay in the same place,” said Sgt. Aviv. “We were taking turns keeping watch, and I decided to join the round so that my soldiers would have more time to rest. I had just finished my shift when I realized that the soldiers were tense. One of them had heard a person speaking arabic outside the house and spotted suspicious movement.”
Realizing that there were people in the area, Sgt. Aviv and his soldiers heightened their awareness. “I joined my soldiers on the roof. After a few minutes, a man about 40 years old walked out of a house nearby, and then I saw that he was holding a woman, and he was using her as a shield.”
“That was the first time I saw with my own eyes someone using another person, a woman, as a shield. I’d seen videos at home, I’d heard about it on the news, and I had believed it, but now I was seeing it with my own eyes. And I can see very clearly that the woman doesn’t want to be there and he’s pulling her with him. Only after he finally let go of the woman could we neutralize him.”
Booby trapped Homes
On the fifth day of the ground operation, Sgt. Aviv and his unit were instructed to continue to a different region. “We knew that the area was dangerous,” recounted Sgt. Aviv, “so we proceeded with caution. When we reached the third house, my team and I waited nearby for the fourth team, the one we were working with, to clear the house. The team decided to enter through the wall because they were worried that the house may be booby trapped. They used explosives, but the hole in the wall wasn’t big enough. So they decided to place explosives on the door.”
Explosives in a Gazan home placed next to a child’s bed.
“Before they had the chance to set the device, an explosive device that had been placed there by terrorists was activated. The house had in fact been booby trapped. I was pretty far away but I was also injured, along with 14 other soldiers I think. Four soldiers were killed. Lt. Paz Elyahu, Staff Sgt. Li Mat, Staff Sgt. Shahar Dauber, and Sgt. Shacar Shalev.”
“I had been on the radio listening to Paz, and after the explosion, there was a moment of quiet, and then people started yelling. It took me a few second before I noticed my leg hurt. A piece of shrapnel had embedded itself in my leg. I saw the blood spreading on my pants, so I sat down and asked one of the soldiers nearby to help me dress the wound. After that I was evacuated to the hospital.”
“That happened on Wednesday, and it was my birthday,” said Sgt. Aviv. “When I called my mother from the hospital, she started singing happy birthday and screaming into the phone, she was so happy. It took me a while before I could explain what happened. She told me that she’d prayed twice as long as usual that morning, hoping that she would get to talk to me on my birthday.”
“Being a commander is a huge responsibility,” concluded Sgt. Aviv. “You make decisions for your soldiers, not just for yourself. But my soldiers were very strong, and I am very proud of the work we did.”