In a remarkable example of courage, a young IDF captain shocked doctors after it was found he had been fighting for three weeks in Gaza unaware that he had a bullet lodged in his leg.
The soldier, identified by Walla! only by the initial M., is a 26-year-old student from Jerusalem. He was injured on July 17, the first night of combat in Operation Protective Edge, when his paratrooper unit was given the order to advance on Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.
However, it was not until the 72-hour ceasefire last Tuesday that M. was evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, where medical crews were stunned as x-rays revealed he had been battling Hamas terrorists with a bullet in his leg the entire time.
Upon being told by the shocked doctor that he had a bullet in his leg, M. recalls "my first reaction was simply to burst out laughing. Three weeks I was going around with a bullet in my leg - and I didn't even know."
"Even if I had known, I wouldn't have agreed to be evacuated. The responsibility on my shoulders was too great," commented the indomitable captain. The bullet was removed on Monday at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in M.'s hometown of Jerusalem.
Reenacting the night he was injured, M. relates "the area was 'hot.' There was gunfire at us and in parallel IDF tanks were firing in the opposite direction."
Surrounded by explosions, "suddenly I felt a sharp strong pain in my leg," remarked M. "I was kneeling on the ground at the time and didn't know what happened to me. I thought I was injured by a rock on the ground maybe, or maybe hit by shrapnel. A few guys came to me and we pulled up my pant leg, and saw a bleeding hole."
"I thought it was a bullet, but I turned my leg over and there was no exit wound. They dressed the wound, and when I got up I felt pain in my leg and dizziness, but after I put down some of the (equipment) weight I was carrying I was able to move while limping, so I kept fighting," recalled M.
"In battle you don't even think about the pain"
In the days of warfare that followed the pain abated, as M. bandaged and disinfected the wound at every opportunity.
"In the first days the pain was pretty strong, but those were intensive days of battle, so you don't think, certainly not about the pain," said M. He did not tell his family about the wound so as not to worry them, but notes several of his comrades expressed their concern.
However, M. did not even consider evacuating himself to the hospital: "I have lots of responsibility on my shoulders. A mistake of a single digit in measurements during the fighting - and I'm not exaggerating - could kill an entire military company. These are things that happened."
After the shell was removed, "of course I took the bullet home," noted M. "I checked on the internet what type of weapon it was, and found two very similar bullets, one used by IDF forces and the other used in the Kalashnikov, which would fit Hamas. So I don't know if it was enemy- or friendly-fire."
Nevertheless, M. said he was unconcerned by the matter, noting "it's not like they cut my leg off. In this battle there are terrible wounds and injuries that aren't easy, not to mention those killed."
"I made off very easy," summarized M. "There was a lot of luck here. A little to the side and it would have hit me in the head. There's a large element of luck in war."