Six years ago on the 25th of June 2006, Hamas kidnapped Gilad Shalit in Israeli territory. Immediately following his abduction, the IDF (Zahal) attempted to retrieve Gilad from behind enemy lines in operation Summer Rains. The operation though unsuccessful in its attempt to free Gilad, was a success in its statement against IDF (Zahal) soldier abductions. Israel and the international community demanded his release on several occasions, but Hamas refused as did they refuse the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit him.
Sergeant 1st Class Gilad Shalit during his captivity in a Hamas prison. Photo: MAKO
After 5 years, Gilad returned to Israel on October 18, 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners convicted for their involvement in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
One of the soldiers of the operation, Yuval (19 years old at the time) speaks about his experience.
My name is Yuval, I’m 25 and I am a captain in the IDF (Zahal). I joined the army in 2005, seven years ago. Today, I am the commander of an artillery battery here in the Golan Heights and I run the control center.
During a Shabbat in June 2006 while still in training, the IDF (Zahal) called up artillery forces a few days following Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping. We quickly packed our bags, boarded buses and military trucks and headed to the Gaza Strip.
We arrived at a military outpost near Gaza where we stayed about a month and a half. All the while exchanging fire with Hamas. It helps to understand the importance of our role in the military- clear the way for ground forces. Without us, it would be like entering a minefield.
Fresh out of basic training, I had only ever fired upon fake targets, but standing there facing the enemy registered for life. This experience has clearly influenced my decision to become an officer and commander.
I sometimes talk about this experience with my soldiers. I do not intentionally speak about it, rather it comes out naturally. When you have participated in such an operation, you will remember it always.
This was no trivial event and, fortunately, not an experience that we live every day. It is very important for me to pass on to my soldiers what I learned from the front lines.
It is imperative that IDF (Zahal) soldiers be aware at all times of the abduction threats facing them. Following Gilad’s release, a member of the Saudi Royal family offered a $1 million bounty for the capture of another IDF (Zahal) soldier. Hamas too has expressed their intentions to abduct another IDF (Zahal) soldier.