While there has been public controversy over the ceasefire ending to the 50-day Operation Protective Edge, the IDF has been lauded for its brave actions in the war fighting Hamas terrorists embedded deep in the civilian population of Gaza.
That heroism was displayed by the elite Duvdevan special operations undercover unit, which was in Gaza to locate terror tunnels and sites of combat. The unit conducted a recently revealed daring rescue in Khirbat Ahza, located in southern Gaza, during the fourth day of ground combat in the operation.
A company of the unit headed by a captain, identified only by the initial S, had infiltrated into a 12-building compound of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization where it was searching for rocket-launch sites, weapons and terror tunnels. The company quickly realized the compound was full of active terrorists, travelling through underground tunnels.
Suddenly through the sporadic gunfire in the background a loud explosion was heard, and members of the unit reported that an army bulldozer had run over a planted explosive, with terrorists firing on the trapped driver from several directions and pinning him down.
Fearing an abduction of the driver, captain S and reserves communications combat soldier A broke off from the tunnel-finding mission to race towards the bulldozer, reports Walla!.
A sprint under fire in soggy sand
Climbing on the vehicle despite the incoming gunfire, S told the Hebrew-language news source that he saw the driver was severely wounded. At that point, S says "in parallel I get information on an anti-tank rocket terror cell in the surroundings. We identify the cell; it opens fire on us, and suddenly I hear a shout: 'grenade.'"
After taking cover, S notes he and A opened fire at the terrorist who lobbed the grenade at them, while still struggling to free the trapped and heavily wounded driver. "I was afraid he would be abducted by the cell. It was very important to me to get him home. I didn't think about anything else, I worked like a machine," stated the special ops commander.
After finally getting the driver out, deputy commander Y of the company arrived on the scene with a stretcher. Unfortunately the driver, first Sgt. Moshe Davinu hy''d of Jerusalem, did not survive the critical wounds inflicted on him by the explosive.
Y told Walla! of events from his perspective: "I stood in a doorway, looked out and saw a terrorist 15 meters (50 feet) away from me pull out a Kalashnikov. He threw a grenade and fired at S. I placed my sights on him and fired."
Once Davinu was on the stretcher, Y relates "while they were firing on us we ran between houses almost 200 meters (650 feet) in swampy sea sand. We made a sprint, it was really difficult."
After their breakneck sprint through soggy sand, the Duvdevan fighters evacuated the wounded and were taken back to Israeli territory in an APC. However the reprieve was brief; quickly they were back in the heart of the fighting, infiltrating a terrorist hideout and engaging in a fierce firefight with a terror cell. When the smoke cleared eight terrorists were dead and ten Duvdevan troops wounded.
"They dropped their equipment and ran"
Duvdevan was in fact not initially set to enter Gaza in the last operation; it was a request by the unit's commander Lt. Col. K that got the special forces in on the action. Reserve soldiers in the unit were given 24 hours of training before being deployed into Gaza to join the fighting.
In one clash, IDF artillery units opened heavy fire leading terrorists to assume the IDF would advance and hit them from the front under cover of the barrage.
Duvdevan was a step ahead of them - captain S's fighters infiltrated on foot over a distance of five kilometers (over three miles) to strike the unsuspecting terrorists from the side.
"While the terrorists believed we would come at them from the front, we reached them from the side and in their shock most of them fled. They left behind their equipment and ran," S told Walla!.
The next target: Hezbollah
The elite special forces unit was founded in the 1980s as a special squad of mista'arvim, undercover forces disguising themselves as Arabs to covertly stop terror in Judea and Samaria. In recent years, Duvdevan has been shifting to be a force conducting complex missions in developed urban settings.
In the future, the force is planned to be used in southern Lebanon against the Iran-proxy terror group Hezbollah.
The need for preparations on that front was illustrated on Tuesday, when explosives set by Hezbollah on the border wounded two IDF soldiers, with experts warning the IDF is "losing control" of the border.
Speaking about his unit, commander K said "the advantage of the unit is the quality of its fighters. Not everyone is one of the mista'arvim, just a small group that is used in surgical strikes. I will bring the unit to places where I think it has a comparative advantage, like in southern Lebanon. The goal is not to fight, but rather to achieve targets."