An IDF officer who is the assistant foreign liaison officer to international organizations in Gaza is none other than a young native of Arizona named Nira Lee, who moved to Israel in 2010 after she earned a degree at American University in Washington, D.C.
With the rank of Second Lieutenant, Nira serves with COGAT, initials for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the IDF unit responsible for implementing the Israeli government’s policy in Judea and Samaria as well as facilitating the movement of goods and people to and from Gaza.
“Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a terrorist group that wants to destroy Israel and has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians in recent years,” Nira told an IDF interviewer for its website. “The IDF, therefore, does not coordinate with Hamas, which is why it’s important that we maintain strong relationships with the international organizations that work with uninvolved civilians in Gaza."
Besides working with international organizations and delegations in Gaza to coordinate the flow of goods, she also coordinates the movement of international organizations inside the security buffer zone in Gaza — including ambulances and fire trucks in case of emergency — as well as visits to the Kerem Shalom crossing for commercial goods.
Approximately 250-350 trucks go through the crossing every day. Other crossings have been closed because of rocket and mortar shell attacks.
The IDF kept Kerem Shalom open even during most of the Pillar of Defense counterterrorist operation last month.
During the Hamas missile attack, Nira says she came in contact with a Gaza woman who works for a major international organization, which she did not name,
“Last month, we were together for a meeting in Israel when a rocket siren went of,” says Nira. “Not knowing quite what to do, she froze and just looked at me as everyone around us began to run. There was no time to explain, so I just grabbed her hand and we ran — a woman from Gaza and IDF officer — to a shelter together.
“When we spoke that evening, her voice shook as she told me that the bond she felt with me that day challenged all she had been taught about IDF soldiers.”
Nira said the crossing had to be closed one night, in the middle of transferring goods, because of a missile attack. “That night, we stayed up trying to figure different ways to get the medical supplies into Gaza,” Nira relates. “Eventually we settled on a plan to use forklifts at Erez,” the pedestrian crossing where 300 diplomatist, international organization workers and journalists cross every day.
Despite mainstream media reporting of a “siege” on Gaza and a lack of medical goods, Nira reveals that during Pillar of Defense, she called all of the major organizations in Gaza that import medical supplies and drugs and asked them if there was anything they needed urgently. “Every organization except one declined the offer. In fact, one of the items that was requested in Gaza during the operation was Bamba — a popular Israeli snack for children,” she adds.