IDF Releases Audio Recordings of Dramatic Rescue Operation in Gaza Last Year, Issues Commendations to Soldiers Involved
The Israeli military on Sunday released new audio recordings of a dramatic rescue operation in the Gaza Strip that took place last year, and issued commendations to several of the soldiers involved.
The incident took place on November 11 when an Israel Defense Forces special unit, whose mission is still secret, infiltrated the town of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip. They were identified by Hamas terrorists and a firefight ensued. They were rescued by helicopter, but a colonel identified only as M. was killed by friendly fire.
The recordings depict a short but extremely tense operation, in which the helicopter remains on the ground under fire until all the soldiers could be accounted for.
The crew can be heard saying, “On the ground, soldiers are permitted to enter.”
“Soldiers are coming in,” says a voice. “A lot of fire around. Everyone here?”
Crew members can then be heard saying, “Yes, everyone here, take off.”
Shortly after, another crew member says, “There were lots of shots around. Crazy noise of shooting. Booms.”
A crew member then says, “One hundred percent, five minutes to the hospital.”
The helicopter flew directly to Soroka hospital in Be’er Sheva, where M. was pronounced dead.
At a ceremony held at M.’s family home, Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said of M., “This is a remarkable case of outstanding heroism.”
“I knew M. from his days as a young officer in the paratroopers’ brigade. Alongside his many skills, he was a humble man … a man of truth, a man who you knew that what you saw was what was there,” he stated.
“The operation in which he was killed was part of an event that could have ended much more severely,” said the chief of staff. “He made a decision through which he could create the conditions so that we would not deteriorate into a crisis with strategic implications.”
“I salute M. for how he acted,” he added. “Only those who have been in such situations know what the forces, pressures, and gravity of considerations are on their shoulders and run through the mind in those fragile seconds.”
Colonel C., who was also involved in the rescue operation, said of the incident, “It all started running like a fast-paced action movie. We put a helicopter into the heart of enemy territory, so it was a race against the clock. All in all, we were three minutes on the ground.”
“The feeling at the end of the operation was mixed,” he added. “On the one hand we lost a fighter, on the other we prevented an unimaginable disaster for the country.”
An IDF spokesman said of the commendations, “During the incident, the teams acted with professionalism, calm, and courage, and showed leadership ability under uncertain conditions.”
He also praised the soldiers’ “determination and adherence to the mission that led to the saving of human life.”