Rabbi Avichai Ronski looked back Sunday at the Cast Lead counter-terror operation in Gaza, which ended five years ago on the Hebrew calendar, three weeks after it began.
Rabbi Ronski, formerly the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, recalled the tension in the air before the battle. “There was tremendous tension among the soldiers, like a wound spring waiting for release,” he wrote in a post to Facebook.
Soldiers were waiting “to strike at the terrorist organizations,” he said. The Cast Lead conflict followed an escalation in rocket attacks on civilians in southern Israel.
Rabbi Ronski recalled the operation itself, which involved intense fighting in Gaza cities. Over 1,160 Gaza residents were killed in fighting, at least 709 of them terrorists. The “uncompromising” approach to fighting was a good thing, Rabbi Ronski declared.
“Engineering units destroyed homes that were used to fire on Israel, and bulldozed forested areas used by terrorists to hide. All this without fear of legal repercussions, or pressure from abroad,” he said.
“That is how we must fight the enemy: by striking a strong blow in order to create significant deterrence in the future,” he stated.
Ten Israeli soldiers died in the operation, he noted. “Precious souls fell in this operation, each an entire world. But considering the scale of fighting, we had feared many more casualties,” he said.
Three Israeli civilians were killed in rocket attacks, as well, and dozens of families lost their homes due to rocket damage.
The operation was considered a tactical success in Israel due to the heavy blow to Hamas’ ranks, including the top command, and the destruction of most of the terrorist group’s smuggling tunnels and rocket supplies. Israel took heavy international criticism over the Gaza death toll, particularly as the international media parroted the Hamas line regarding heavy civilian casualties; Hamas later admitted that 700 of the casualties, not 50, were Hamas combatants.
Israel conducted a subsequent major counter-terror operation in Gaza in late 2012. That operation, dubbed Pillar of Defense, focused on destroying Hamas infrastructure through airstrikes, and did not include a major ground operation. Hamas fired 1,506 rockets at Israeli cities during the conflict, killing four people.