Faces of ITEC: Orel

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Posted on: 01/12/2024

The following is a conversation with ITEC Beer Sheva Graduate, Orel.

Three weeks before the war, when commander Orel arrived at Nahal Oz, he could not imagine for a moment that on October 7th, he would be part of the first line of defense between the terrorists and the base. In a chain of encounters, his squad, along with Golani fighters, eliminated dozens of terrorists. Now, he recounts the dramatic hours in the base that became a dangerous battleground, describing long-range firefights, the emotions in critical moments, and the spirit of the fighters on that Saturday.

Date: 23.11.23 Amit Davidov, IDF system, ATZ

Hello, I’m Orel from Beer Sheva, serving in the Paratroopers Brigade. My story from the war begins at Nahal Oz.

Tell me when you arrived there.

Three weeks before the war, we, along with other units, were in reinforcement of the border fence (PSD – Preparations for Security Disturbances). I arrive on Sukkot holiday, a week before October 7th, with my young squad member who completed the course a few days earlier. It was a routine week.
At 6:10, I’m in the room, and they tell me there’s talk about the operation scheduled for noon. We organize ourselves, the equipment is ready. At around 14:00, we head towards the border. There’s a good atmosphere in the vehicle; nothing develops. So, we return to the base around 20:30.

On the morning of Saturday?

06:20, we wake up to the sirens. We run towards the shelter, which is inside the central compound of Golani Brigade’s 13th Battalion . At first, especially as a southerner, I wasn’t not particularly bothered. We’re there for a few good minutes, around 50, 60 fighters inside. After a few minutes, one of the intelligence guys comes with a vest, he also had a communication device. He puts on the earpiece and reports that there are many terrorists on the fence.

We decide to make a move towards the rooms, gear up properly while the siren is going off, and get on the APC. We put the army uniform the last squad is about to climb on the vehicles but not able to. The intelligence guy stops them and says, ‘Listen, we are in a serious event. There is an infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory, and surveillance reports indicate that there are about 60 terrorists in the area, heading to the position.

I grab my squad, report to them about the incident, and while processing what is happening. After a few minutes, we hear shots in our direction. The terrorists come towards the position, make a kind of bypass, create a ring around the base, and start shooting from outside to inside. Two squads decide to go out with two platoons, one to the tank company and one to the battalion headquarters, and tell me, ‘Stay here, we’ll update you.

What happens to you in the meantime?

I’m still inside the APC, staying with about 30 fighters. When the forces go out, I hear bursts, trying to understand what’s happening there. I decide to go out with my squad; you can’t stay inside and just wait. We advance a couple of structures forward to get a view of the base. We continue towards the bathrooms, the last line of structures in the position. I look towards the fence and spot terrorists running towards the headquarters.

I’ve seen terrorists with my own eyes a few times during the service, but it wasn’t something normal. We saw the evil in their eyes. They came with one purpose, and they didn’t care who stood in front of them. I catch one of them, identify him, shoot at him, see him fall, and confirm the kill from a distance. Another fighter goes down to finish him off, shoots another round, hits him from a distance of about 200 meters. Another terrorist falls. After he hits him, they open fire intensively on us. We barricade ourselves inside, there’s an exchange of fire between us and them for a few good minutes.

At this point, are they already inside the base?

Not yet. Not all of them. They start getting closer to the battalion headquarters. I hear from the APC someone calling my name, ‘Come here, we need you.’ I shout back to them to provide us with covering fire, and we start bypassing towards them in pairs.

In the APC, there are two seriously injured soldiers. I grab two guys from my squad to assist with treatment. At this point, I start talking to the Golani forces inside the APC, most of them from the Golan Brigade. I explain to them what’s happening outside, ask them to join the event.

What are your thoughts at that moment?

Thoughts of “I’m getting out of here alive.” I told myself that there’s no way I’m dying here today. I also thought that there’s no way I’m losing someone from my comrades.

I decide to take command with my buddies, along with Golani. They’re with me at the front, there’s a crazy fighting spirit in the air. There are exchanges of fire. One of my soldiers and one from Golani identify two terrorists coming from the south. They’re getting closer, we already hear voices in Arabic. The terrorists step out of their hiding place, about 4 meters away from them, and we open fire. One terrorist is neutralized. The other is injured in the hand, manages to escape, and we hear him calling for more terrorists.

One of the soldiers identifies through a slit the terrorists advancing towards the center of the outpost and signals to me with his hand how many. He counts one, two, three, eventually reaching seven, eight terrorists. One of my fighters replaces him, opens fire unexpectedly, surprises them, and takes down two terrorists. Suddenly, they stop firing, and I feel something strange in the air. I look up, suddenly see a grenade thrown. The grenade falls just behind me; I shout “Grenade!” and run backward. I don’t get far enough, so I brace myself for the explosion, waiting for the boom. It falls, but it doesn’t explode.

I try to establish contact with forces that will come to us, and the surveillance works like machines. They provide full reports and updates, helping us understand where the terrorists are. I report on the severe injuries; their condition begins to deteriorate.

At the moment, we just keep firing. I turn around for a moment and hear someone else shouting “Grenade.” The second grenade is thrown, it enters the armored vehicle a bit more, halting at the entrance. Everyone enters the room and waits for the explosion. It doesn’t go off.

And the others, how do they react?

I grab one of my soldiers, tell him, “We’re getting out of here, taking everyone out of here. There’s no such thing as us dying here now.” In the background, gunfire exchanges continue; we’re already leaving both positions. One terrorist tries to get in; I see his weapon entering the armored vehicle, and he fires. Suddenly, he gets stuck. I run straight to his wall, and now what separates me from him is just the wall. I insert only the weapon, fire a few shots, and hit him. He tries to escape, but I shoot him again, and he falls.

Are you afraid?

I think I haven’t had time to be afraid. I just operate based on what I’ve learned, and in my feeling, when you command soldiers in combat, you can’t allow yourself to be afraid. There are soldiers here, and you’ll have to get them out in the end, so take control of yourself and take command.

How long did the quiet continue?

For another half an hour, and it was interrupted by another grenade. This grenade… fell in the center of the compound. It was close, so we all huddled in the left corner of the room, some of my buddies to his right. After 4 seconds, the grenade exploded.

There was dust everywhere, and I don’t understand what’s happening to me. I fell to the floor from the shock. I got up; I can hear that I have injuries from shrapnel. My medic identifies a terrorist trying to enter; they shoot him, and he retreats. We leave the shelter and move to a nearby structure. We identify four terrorists and kill them.

It’s already 12 o’clock; I’m going from the building to the shelter. We have two dead and six more severely injured from the grenade. We divide responsibilities among ourselves – some with the wounded and some on guard duty. I call on my personal phone and try to get reinforcements.

I go out with my medic and another soldier to bring water and ammunition. Outside, I identify a force trying to enter, and it’s an IDF force. They recognize us, and we connect with them. Together we rescue the wounded, including the surveillance operators who were trapped. We move in and eliminate the remaining terrorists in the base, ensuring none are left, and scan the entire situation.”

At what time are we talking?

It’s 3:30 PM. We’re getting everyone out, including Golani’s guys. I’m leading them out and making sure everyone is okay. I’ll spare you the sights that were there; there’s nothing harder than that. I tried to avoid looking. Even now, understanding what’s happening across the country – we don’t have time to mourn.

How much longer are you staying there?

Another night and a half with the forces from Unit 890 and some commanders, mainly from the reconnaissance unit. Some terrorists are trying to reach the border; some are turning back. We’re taking care of them.

How did you feel at the end of that day?

We didn’t experience a collapse of morale, not yet anyway. I’m still in the same mindset; we just functioned. Everything that happened is part of what we learned throughout our training. We acted; that’s what was in my head. The best feeling is that we saved those we could.”