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August 3, 2014 5:18 pm

IDF Officer Led From The Front: ‘If Anyone Dies, It’ll Be Me, First’

avatar by Dave Bender

IDF Cap. Benaya Sarel 26, killed in battle in Gaza Photo: Sarel family

IDF Cap. Benaya Sarel 26, killed in battle in Gaza Photo: Sarel family

An IDF infantry officer who fell in battle in Gaza on Friday, once said, “I always made sure I was first in to sweep structures – before my soldiers, so, if anyone was going to die – it would be me,” Israel’s NRG daily reported.

On Sunday, thousands of mourners attended the funeral of Givati Brigade Ranger commander, Cap. Benaya Sarel, 26, of Kiryat Arba.

Sarel left behind a fiancee, Gali, who he was to wed in three weeks. His parents, and seven brothers and sisters are veterans of the Hebron-area town.

In an interview conducted at the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, Sarel said that he well knew the dangers of fighting in Gaza, according to NRG.

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“You don’t have the privilege of being afraid,” he said. “You can’t allow yourself to be frightened – even if you’re shaking in terror.”

In one traumatic battle, he described how he and his men had to overcome terrorists hurling grenades from an eight-story building at the soldiers grouped below.

“When they threw the first grenade, I thought, ‘ok – here it is – how will my company manage it’s first real battle,’ and they really fought like lions,” he said.

“When the terrorist threw the grenade he shouted, ‘Allah Akbar,’ and so I told my troops, let’s return the favor. So we also threw grenades and shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ in response,” he recalled.

“At one point (in the heat of battle) I asked them, ‘ok – whoever wants to die, come with me now.’ They all followed me,” he said.

The army said that 64 soldiers and officers have been killed since the start of fighting, and some 140 wounded. Palestinian sources say 1,600 have been killed in Israeli retaliation strikes, including hundreds of minors.  However, casualty claims on the Palestinian side are provided by Hamas-backed and supporting groups, and none specify who are militants and who are non-combatants, according to Israeli officials and foreign media.

Sarel was a graduate of the Mekor Haim religious high school in the Gush Etzion bloc of communities, south of Jerusalem, the same
school where the three youths, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frankel, and Eyal Yifrach studied.

The memorial ceremony for the slain trio, who were abducted and killed by Hamas terrorists, was held Saturday night – a month after their funeral, held together according to their families’ wishes.

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