Elite unit Shaldag commander Lt.-Col. B. spoke this morning with military correspondents, describing the combat he and his unit engaged in already on the morning of Shabbat and how they eliminated dozens of terrorists and extracted dozens of soldiers and civilians, including clearing divisional headquarters at Reim.
"I awoke on Shabbat at 7 AM in Moshav Arbel. We slept by my wife's parents. They called me and told me there are heavy barrages from Gaza. I got in the car, managed to connect the commanders forum and tell them: 'The war has begun.'"
The unit used every available vehicle to reach the Gaza area and organize for battle:
"I brought everyone and managed to bring two more reservists with me. One of them was the unit's combat manager, who helps me manage combat in the rear, a veteran reservist. Another reservist named Shachar, I told him: 'Go to Gaza division from home, link up with the operations officer, and tell me what the assignment is.' On the way, around 7:30, my first team was called up, a General Staff response team with 12 soldiers, with a Yanshuf helicopter, they talked to me on the way and flew off. I was still on the road and asked operations to immediately organize the next force and another helicopter. The first response team landed in kibbutz Beeri at 8:30, 12 soldiers and we start to fight for the kibbutz."
“By 9:30, I was already flying with the next team on the way to Reim, just before I flew off, I grabbed my deputy and told him: ‘Bring everyone after us.’ In the following hours, the whole unit came to us by helicopter, cars, and on foot. I’m talking the whole unit, from training platoons to the last of the reservists.”
“By 2 PM, I was here with about 200 soldiers. The team reached kibbutz Beeri at 8:30 and started to enter the kibbutz. It was hit with a lot of fire from the terrorists, and suffered one wounded and one dead. It understood that there are a lot of terrorists in the kibbutz and redeployed for combat. In the coming hours, it fought alone for a number of hours and killed 20 terrorists.
The Soldiers Attacked and Fought Until They Ran Out of Bullets
B. described the battles at Reim base – the base of the Gaza division. “At this stage, this team, reached its last bullets, all of them with their last cartridges. I landed with the team at Gaza division, at Reim, land at the gate, there we identified three killed terrorists, and many motorcycles. I return to the divisional scouting commander who secured the divisional operations room, we heard a lot of bullets fired in the base. He updated me that terrorists were in the area, the base was quiet, that there were no forces in the base, they’d all gone out to protect the settlements.”
“We identified where the terrorists were concentrated, started to close with them, reached very close ranges with the terrorists. We also get hit from close range encounters, five casualties. The battle effectively became a few minutes of an extraction battle, half the force was basically hit, we extracted the dead, the dead in this stage but not the wounded. One seriously wounded (soldier) was lifted on a helicopter, evacuated, we continued to manage the fight with the terrorists.
“After that closing with the enemy, this significant terrorist grouping firing inside Reim is neutralized. It doesn’t shoot, anymore. From here, we continued to clear the camp. During the day, another force of mine came, a heavier force which came on Yasur (helicopters) and another hour a platoon from Sayeret Matkal came. We cleared the camp, found the headquarters soldiers, some of them alive, some shot. We cleared their rooms and evacuated them.
“I returned to the live terrorists with the bigger force, they were attacked with attack helicopters inside the camp, with attack helicopter missiles. Some of them came out and we shot them outside. At 18:30, I went to the divisional commander and told him the camp is cleared of terrorists. At this stage, the rest of our forces joined the fighting.”
The Soldiers Left Their Posts and Went to Fight in the Settlements
“My deputy who came encountered ambushes, destroyed a Hamas ambush on the roads, was hit himself and we lost another soldier there. Part of the force joined a force which was already in Beeri and fought with it. There’s a force that joins a commando force and fights with it and more forces that simply join the fight. Since then, we’re here fighting with the force in Beeri Kfar Aza, in the open areas we were pursuing the terrorists remaining with the Shin Bet and the division.
“I want to say a few more things. I told this story from my personal perspective as Shaldag commander in the fighting. It’s important for me to tell a few things because this event is obviously broader, I don’t need to explain the forces here to you, I met them all and I was in almost all the places in the last 48 hours. They were not ‘not here’ because they went to sleep. They set out to fight in the settlements, those who didn’t go out to fight in the settlements – that’s because the posts were simply attacked.
“I saw the commanders here on the sides of the road, they simply ran to the forces and tan to the settlements, that’s why there was a high casualty rate of commanders. I’ll give you an example – the reservist I sent to Gaza division, he went to Urim, to the alternative divisional HQ set up there, on the way the divisional operations officer calls him and tells him Urim also has terrorists and he needs to clear the camp.
“My reservist comes from home with a pistol and encounters an event along the way, he kills one terrorist there, there is a wounded police officer there and he takes his rifle from him. He simply takes a platoon from officer’s course this reservist, tells them to get on the bus and clears the camp at Urim and extracts the female soldiers in the headquarters who were locked in the rooms. Only then does he join with the divisional operations officer.
“Alongside what we’re doing, we came quick, because we’re connected to helicopters, we came fast and they didn’t block our roads, all the roads were blocked. We simply leapfrogged all the barriers and came with helicopters all the time. But the forces were on the road the whole time – Sayeret Matkal which joined up in the afternoon, commando brigades, infantry brigades, battalion 890 helped my battalion commander extract the body of the soldier, they fought bravely. They were all here, they were, they closed and they fought.”
Our Life is in the Rear, The Life of Civilians - in Front
“We also fought house to house in the settlements and I was with them in combat. I realize this may sound like, I see the catastrophe with my eyes, I get that, but the people here fought. And my fighters and all the army’s fighters, our life is in the back, the life of civilians is in the front. There’s no waiting. When there are civilians, we ran forward all the time from the first moment. From the moment they woke me up Shabbat morning to these very moments now that I have a force closing up with any sign of life. It’s important for me that you understand this, it’s not just my people, the whole army is here, the line commanders and all the forces coming on the way. That’s at this stage, I have a few things to say at the end but we’ll do questions, this is the time.”
5 Killed in the Unit
“The unit has five killed. This includes a section commander, a team commander who was holed up in his home in Sderot Shabbat morning, after he was let out in civilian clothes with his brother’s weapon. (He) joined up with a Sayeret Matkal vehicle which was on its way south and told them he’s with them and fought with them and was killed (fighting) with the Sayeret Matkal force in Beeri.
“Another veteran fighter, a 45 year old Warrant Officer, my most veteran soldier in the unit, a regular army man with a wife and three children. No-one would look around if he didn’t show. He charged the terrorists at Alumim and fell. Another officer who was my signal operator charged the terrorists at Reim base and got two bullets to the head. I have some 15 wounded, I don’t have a command of the numbers because I’m here in the field, everyone should live.”
He told military reporters: “I’m asking you, even in your messages, you can have criticism and that’s fine, I ask that if you didn’t fight here, don’t talk to me about how we’re fighting.”
The IDF is Fighting Here Non-Stop With Lightning in Their Eyes
What did you tell your soldiers?
“I told my soldiers, from the first – we’re at war, even before I arrived in the field, I told them that. We’re at war.
“Two – the difficult and the complex is still before us and we’re going to win. And we have casualties and we’re not looking back, it doesn’t matter right now. We look at the next mission, the next civilian we save and the next terrorist we kill. That’s what we’re looking at now.
“What was done cannot be undone, we don’t look back. We’re going to war, we’re in war, and we’re going to win, and we do this only by looking forward. That’s what I tell my soldiers.
“And I tell you that my soldiers is what I and others see, fighting like lions, they fight like lions in every corner, with the vast majority of them under such fire for the first time. We get hit because we go forward and there’s nothing to be done, that’s why we’re here. We went forward, we got hit hard, we and the whole army here. And we don’t look back, we look forward and we’re going to win, I have no doubt about that at all.
“I see the lightning in people’s eyes. Listen to me for a second, I’m not going into the issues between you and I don’t get into the personal thoughts of everyone. I ask you from first hand, from someone who was here from the first moment for real. The IDF is fighting here non-stop with lightning in its eyes with the understanding that we’re protecting civilians and before anything else.
“We’re entering into encounters without hesitation. I see the people, they don’t care about anything else, they want to extract the civilians, want to kill terrorists. The IDF has lightning in its eyes and it doesn’t matter what happened.
“The State of Israel is being hit with blows it was never hit with before, they’re fighting like lions, everyone without exception. I saw headquarters soldiers who have terrorists shot on top of them. Everyone is fighting.
“They say there is no IDF. We are the IDF. We are the State of Israel. There are no others now.”