Daily Israel Report

Soldier Recalls His Role In Elon Moreh Terror Attack

First Publish: 4/8/2002, 8:14 PM

On the second night of this past Pesach (Passover) holiday, March 28, 2002, an Arab terrorist infiltrated the Jewish town of Elon Moreh, entered the house of the Gavish family and murdered four people: David and Rachel, parents of several children; their oldest son Avraham; and Rachel\'s father Yitzchak Kaner. St.-Sgt. (res.) Avi Zarbiv, who was staying in the house next door for the holiday, told Arutz-7 what happened that night:

Avi: We were visiting my wife\'s family in the house right next door to the Gavish home. Suddenly we heard very loud gunshots. We didn\'t know where they were coming from, but they were clearly close by. I went outside, with my gun, to look for the source of the fire. Someone outside shouted to me that the shots were coming from the Gavish home. I ran towards the house, and saw the daughter-in-law - run outside with her baby. She was the wife of Avraham, one of those who were killed in the attack and an IDF officer who served in the General Staff elite unit. She shouted that there is a terrorist in the house. At that stage there were three or four armed people outside. They were all neighbors who responded in seconds and came outside with their guns. I stationed the people so that they would cover each side of the house, with orders to prevent the terrorist from leaving the house and reaching other homes.

The front door was open, and I cautiously peeked inside. I saw destruction in the house: the father and mother, David and Rachel Gavish, lying wounded in the entrance, and I saw the grandfather in the same condition lying in the den. I entered the house and encountered a small room to my right; I gave it a look-over, saw there was no one there, and continued to the den. I then saw an Elon Moreh resident enter the house through the kitchen; we had eye contact and called to each other. I began to comb the den and fired two shots at one of the couches; the shots apparently hit an electric heater, causing a short circuit, and all the lights in the house went out. Then I heard shouts from the second floor, and I understood that family members were upstairs. I left the guy in the kitchen covering the den, and I went outside and saw people up on a porch. I instructed others nearby to bring a ladder, and then I went back in the house.

Arutz-7: At this stage, you still didn\'t know where the terrorist was, right?
Avi: Correct. I dragged the three wounded outside, and gave instructions to distance them from the house. I returned to comb the house, and then the people outside shouted that the ladder had arrived. I went back outside and helped open and position the ladder, which was not an easy task. We began bringing the family members on the balcony down the ladder.

Arutz-7: So at this stage, you were operating under pressure that the terrorist could appear and open fire at any second from any location?
Avi: Yes, we had not yet made contact with the terrorist. We didn\'t know where he was. We had closed off the house from all sides, and we had a guy in the house watching over the den. So we continued to rescue the family from the balcony. At that point, another fighter arrived who I knew had served in an elite unit, and I knew I could rely on him. Together we returned to the house to find the terrorist. We crossed the den and reached the stairs where we saw the fourth victim - the son Avraham. We dragged him outside, and when I came back in, we saw and identified the terrorist hiding behind a closet in one of the rooms on the ground floor. We each let go a long round of fire at him, shooting from outside the room in the hallway, and the terrorist also returned fire. The door to the room suddenly closed, and we don\'t know if the terrorist closed it, or if it closed from the force of the shots. We then saw a hand grenade on the floor of the hallway, which we didn\'t know if he had thrown or what. I remind you that the house was at this stage completely dark; someone from Elon Moreh\'s emergency response team had given the two of us flashlights that we fastened to the barrels of our guns for light as we combed the house.

Arutz-7: When the terrorist opened fire, were either of you hurt?
Avi: Thank G-d, we weren\'t hit. We learned and drilled many times in the IDF how to operate when combing a house for a terrorist. We were careful to expose only a minimal part of our bodies as we moved about and surveyed each room. At this point, I sent someone to ask the Gavish family precisely how many people were in the house and how many had been evacuated, in order to know if there will still people to rescue. It turns out that everyone had been evacuated . We then \"froze\" the situation. That is, we remained in the house across from the closed room for about an hour. We shot occasionally through the closed door so that the terrorist wouldn\'t \'raise his head,\' if he was still alive. We waited in the house for the arrival of IDF special forces who would proceed to finish the job with more equipment, soldiers, and the means to protect themselves.

Arutz-7: Do you know if you killed the terrorist or just injured him?
Avi: We were told by the commandos who stormed the room later in the night that they found the terrorist \"full of holes\" but not dead. The next day, we looked over the room in daylight and saw many bloodstains on the walls in the corner of the room where we shot him. So we definitely hit him. The terrorist was able to move to another corner of the room before the IDF stormed in and finished the job.

Arutz-7: Let me ask you: Before you were joined by the second elite-unit soldier, why did you not go into the house when there were other people with weapons around?
Avi: I had a few things to worry about. Firstly, I didn\'t want the forces to come and not know I was in there and shoot at me by mistake... I also had to worry about closing off the house, that is, ensuring that the terrorist not escape and go towards other houses... I also was involved in rescuing the wounded, combing the house, and making sure that other people were doing what they should...

Arutz-7. When you were joined by the other elite unit soldier upon whom you said you could rely, was it clear to you that you were going in the house to hunt down the terrorist, or did you consider waiting for the IDF to arrive?
Avi: No, no, it was clear that we were going into the house to find the terrorist. There was absolutely no doubt about it. We know how do to the job well, and that\'s what we did: we found him -

Arutz-7: What thoughts were going through your head? Did you have any fears?
Avi: \"Of course -- many thoughts. It is very frightening to go into a house where you know a terrorist is hiding. But someone has to do the job. I did know that something might happen to me, but at the time, that was an irrelevant detail...
\"I would just like to note that the Gavish family was a special family, a real example for others. I have often viewed them as a real model. All of the sons are in elite units, one after the other, including Avraham, of blessed memory, who served as an officer in the IDF\'s most elite Matkal unit. The father was a well-known personality who fought in the elite Shaked unit... I was in awe of how a man could raise his family to be such contributors both in the community of Elon Moreh and to society in general. It is truly a great loss to the Jewish people, a tremendous blow. But the Jewish People have experienced many difficulties and much pain, and we managed to overcome, and we will continue to overcome. No one will ever break our spirit.\"

Hear the above Hebrew-language interview at \"http://www.israelnationalnews.com/metafiles/asx/engnews/features/avizarbiv.asx\"

To prevent further attacks of the above type, Israel has launched Operation Defensive Shield. See \"http://www.israelnationalnews.com/article.php3?id=989\" for a letter to President George Bush expressing wonder at those who would pressure Israel to end this anti-terror operation.