The commander of the 75th Armored Battalion speaks about combat in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge – specifically regarding the ground phase, discovering and destroying tunnels, and the dilemmas of urban combat. “Hamas is a significant threat. When facing the strength of the IDF (Zahal), they hide and attempt to strike us whenever and however they can.”
The 75th Battalion of the 7th Brigade operated in central Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, and was responsible for finding and destroying Hamas terror tunnels. Additionally, the battalion went to great lengths to minimize harm to civilians in the heavily populated Gaza Strip.
The fighting in the built up areas of Gaza was extensive and complicated, and caused many problems for IDF (Zahal) forces. Hamas took advantage of civilian buildings, including homes, multi-story buildings, and used them as rocket launching sites and weapons storage facilities.
“During the operation there was an incident in which mortars were fired, and at the same time an anti-tank missile was fired from the courtyard of a school,” said Lt. Col. Edan Morag, the commander of the 75th Battalion of the 7th Armoured Corps. Though they were under fire, the soldiers did not return fire until they received confirmation that the school was empty. The incident, which took place on Friday, July 25, injured five soldiers and claimed the life of a tank commander, Guy Levy.
During Operation Protective Edge, civilian buildings were frequently used as locations for conducting terror activity. Hamas deliberately used these structures to shelter themselves and used the people inside them as human shields.
In another incident, the 7th Brigade received intel regarding a Hamas operative who was alone in a three story house. The site was supposed to be targeted from the air, but after a few minutes the terrorist was spotted running into a kindergarten, and the strike was aborted in order to prevent harm to civilians.
“Before every strike that took place on a house, there was great deliberation,” explained Lt. Col. Morag. “Is this really the home of a Hamas operative? There always exists the dilemma of what to do in response to fire from a home. We think twice before striking. It’s possible that this is the home of a civilian. Still, it must be understood – if you fire at us, we will strike back.”
The Tunnel Threat
“The infrastructure of [Hamas’] tunnels was built very professionally,” said Lt. Col. Morag. Throughout the operation, the Armored Corps 7th Brigade discovered more than 14 tunnels and 45 tunnel openings. Some of these tunnels led into Israeli territory and threatened thousands of citizens.
On the first day of the ground phase of the operation, the soldiers discovered a tunnel that led into Israeli territory. The tunnel’s opening was adjacent to a mosque, and the soldiers found military equipment and uniforms nearby.
A tunnel shaft discovered by IDF (Zahal) soldiers
The Connection Between Hamas and Hezbollah
Lt. Col. Edan Morag has fought in previous battles and wars, and received a medal of distinguished service for his time in the Second Lebanon War. The Second Lebanon War, in which the IDF (Zahal) fought against Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, was characterized by fighting in built-up areas and rocket fire into Israel. “It’s known that Hamas and Hezbollah have a close connection,” emphasized Lt. Col. Morag. “Both utilize anti-tank missiles, rocket attacks and civilian shields against the IDF (Zahal) and Israel’s citizens.”
“The soldiers were highly motivated,” concluded Lt. Col. Morag. “They understood what they were fighting for. It was our turn to protect our home.”
Lt. Col. Edan Morag briefing his soldiers