Every fall, parents send their children to school trusting that they will return home safely. None of them expect terrorists to take their children hostage. Recently, our Southern Gaza Regional Brigade prepared for this extreme circumstance in a unique simulation.
It is the first day of a new school year. First graders arrive at school nervous and excited to meet their new teachers and classmates. Suddenly, dozens of terrorists emerge from of a terror tunnel dug right next to the school. The terrorists take over the school and capture all of the students, holding them hostage.
This is not the gut-wrenching script of a new thriller, but rather a possible scenario in the residential area on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Recently, the Southern Gaza Regional Brigade, along with soldiers of the Paratroopers Reconnaissance Battalion drilled their rescuing skills to prepare for such a situation.
Soldiers running through the exercise.
A Hostile Takeover: Neutralizing the Threat
In the simulation, a group of terrorists block the school grounds to slow the IDF (Zahal) response. Meanwhile, other terrorists invade the school. As a result, some students are killed, others are injured and the terrorists hold everyone hostage. Simultaneously, another terrorist squad hijacks a military vehicle patrolling near the border, kidnaps an IDF (Zahal) soldier and then flees to Gaza.
IDF (Zahal) intelligence reports suggest that such a scenario is not at all unlikely.
“We really prepared our soldiers for every imaginable factor. For instance, let’s say the terrorists barricade themselves inside a home and hold the residents hostage, or maybe they run inside classrooms and shoot children or lace the schools with explosive devices,“ explains Lieutenant Nadav Feldman, who has been serving as the Security Officer of the Southern Gaza Regional Brigade for the past six months.
“In such scenarios, you have to drop everything and rush to the site as fast as possible, even if it means that our soldiers are hit in the exchange of fire. Ultimately, this is why we’re here- to protect Israel’s civilians. If we manage to spare even one life, it’s worth it,” elaborates Lt. Feldman, whose role is to update the IDF (Zahal)’s safety protocol and plan exercises in preparation for any threat.
Protecting the Southern Arena from the Threat of Hamas
All of this does not necessarily mean that in the next conflict, Hamas will primarily target schools in the south of Israel. The terror organization has also been known to target residential areas and military bases. “I stress again- this is an entirely realistic scenario. In every exercise, we drill what we know might happen and what could possibly surprise us in the field,” Lt. Feldman explains. “We prepare for a future conflict in which we will face hundreds of terrorists acting at once in varied, simultaneous attacks.”
The simulation was declared a success. The paratroopers force that participated in the exercise neutralized the terrorists and reclaimed control over the schools.
“At the end of the day, even though they are soldiers who are trained to give their lives if the need arises, IDF (Zahal) troops are people. They don’t want to die in the battlefield. But they know that if the choice is between endangering their own lives and putting civilians at risk, they would always do everything in their capacity to save the civilians first.”