We had yet to see an event of this magnitude, with extremely difficult sights, mass killing of civilians, houses, and command centers burnt with people, civilians, and soldiers still inside. There were fighters fighting in first-line combat. In the headquarters of the Gaza Division alone, there were 30 casualties and 150 wounded.
At 8:00 I arrived at the parking area of the party in Re’im, and I can’t describe what I saw. A surreal sight. Pure insanity. It wasn’t a ‘nature fest’, it was a massacre fest. We couldn’t deal with the bodies because we were busy fighting and dealing with the information coming in. I received messages (from people), crying for help saying ‘come save us’. In my squad there were only 4-6 people.
From the area of the party, I rushed to the Kfar Azza kibbutz. Wherever I encountered forces who were already engaged in combat, I continued past them. There was no one to speak to. Only with the ‘matchmaker’ (the officer who coordinates between the division and the headquarters of the command) in the Southern Command.
No one had a clear situation assessment. There was actual fighting going on inside the Gaza Division command center. On my way, I saw the commander of the Givati Brigade and took him for myself, to be with me. At first I called us “Zvika Force” (after the impromptu eight-person tank force led by Zvika Greengold that fought during the Yom Kippur War against Syrian troops) because that’s how I felt – it was me and 3-4 other fighters against dozens of terrorists at every point of contact.
The fighters rushed from village to village. In the entrance to the Kfar Azza kibbutz my intelligence officer was shot, and only then did the magnitude of this event dawn on me. I rushed south through the Gaza envelope (towns bordering the Gaza strip), in order to understand where to mobilize forces, and I also took charge of a fighting zone in order to help stop the event.
We had amazing cooperation with the Air Force, where squadron commanders themselves were in the air, flying. There were hundreds of terrorists with an enormous amount of ammunition, anti-tank missiles, machine guns and grenades. In Nachal Oz we chased terrorists with hostages and we fired at the terrorists. At every encounter there were 15-20 terrorists with a huge amount of weaponry. At first the battle wasn’t clear. The sights were difficult and complicated.
We immediately called up all our army reserves, who came within a few hours from their homes directly into combat. The division is preparing now for the stage where we attack, and we are prepared for any event that might break out. We discovered terrorists who were hiding in cupboards and came out only a day later. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were groups (of terrorists) that dug holes in the ground and hid. We are making a huge effort to clear every centimeter of the area. We haven’t as of yet found any operational tunnels, and we have ruled out the threat of tunnels into towns and villages.
The surprise was difficult, a fighter’s job is to fight and be killed if needed, but a civilian’s job is to be a civilian. Not to fight, and certainly not to be killed. Later, we will have to ask ourselves very hard questions, also regarding the way we acted in light of our commitment to protect the country. We were hit in our stomach, but we took control of the contact line, and now we’re in a full-blown attack, according to the stages we decided. It doesn’t take away from the difficulties and the severeness of what happened. We are fighting, it’s not all ‘Lovey-dovey’ and everything is now great. Be hard on us later, keep the hard questions for later. Now is the time for strength and determination. We have to remember that we are fighting a vicious enemy who has slaughtered innocent people at a music festival, and burned women and children in their own homes.
Dan Goldfuss is an Israeli Brigadier general who commands the Fire Formation. He previously served as Commander of Gadsar Nahal, Shayetet 13, 931st Onyx Battalion, Nahal Brigade, Infantry Corps and the 98th Paratroopers Division. (Wikipedia)