I assume that one of the things that made you function properly were your soldiers. You were in charge of how many there?What made me function properly was the way I was trained - I had excellent training as a soldier - and the soldiers behind me. I was there with a group of twelve men. I mean, the forces were split up.
So how many soldiers were your subordinates?Officially, fifteen men at the time.
How many were your subordinates but not from your own unit?Another twenty, approximately. At my command. I must reiterate this was not all so clear-cut. It was somehow… I was told I'd be in charge of them. In short, I decided to get out. I realized I was not fulfilling my mission as I should and decided to get out. Without taking people out. Without I don't know what. And as I was going out, I saw Border Patrolmen banging at someone's door and yelling violently, terrible banging. With soldiers who… This was two o'clock at night, people don't just open their door straight away. It's not like you knock on a door and immediately someone's going to open it for you. After all, two a.m. So I run over to them, I leave my soldiers behind, telling them to cover me. I run over to those guys and say, "Wait a minute…" No, before I run over there, there is horrible banging on the door and yelling, "Come on, move it! Move it!" The door was not opened very fast. So a soldier was already running –without being ordered to, things I'm really not used to – and shattered a window. I run over and shout, "Who's the commander here? Hey, what's going on here?" And one of them says, "I am!" Another guy says, "I am the commander." Suddenly there are three commanders there. I say, "Who's really the commander? I want to talk to the commander". Another guy arrives. I say, "Hey, take it easy. Slow down. Let them open their door, let them… No one is firing at us." and he says, "No, no, no" and the havoc continues. The soldiers get people out of their houses in their underwear, and I am registering this… When I say a 'house", I don't mean a house where three people live. It's a building with three families and everyone's outside, and the soldiers are conducting searches. I yell, "Wait, explain to them. Let them know what happened, so they'll understand", and I realize no one is listening. Suddenly I look back and notice I still have these soldiers of mine to take care of. So I said, okay, my own soldiers and my own assignment are more important to me, and one moment before I leave I also see a little soldier, looking like he'd just gotten sworn-in today, with this long weapon, jumping up and down and yelling, "Action, action, action!" pointing his rifle at the people. I was stunned. So were my soldiers. I saw them stunned. They were right across the street, they saw it all. I go back and explain to the soldiers, "Guys, we have a mission. We need to carry it out. Like the battalion commander defined it for me – to explain to the people. We'll go in and clear things up.", and I continue to enter house after house. All in all, we went over five houses, or buildings rather. Later when I asked, "How many buildings did you do?" there were people there who had managed five times four, so that was twenty buildings, and woke everyone up. Actually, the entire village woke up. And the other scene there was at the same time, we got to another house and I … there was a sequence of events there and I must retell them. That was the night that broke the camel's back. The straw that broke the camel's back. I enter a house, there's a woman there. Again, I'm covered with mud, and I really, I look… I can imagine I looked really scary. I go in and there's this old woman and I ask her, "Where is the man of the house?" No one understands anyone. Then I see some mattress covered with a blanket. The blanket is moving as if in some earthquake, and I… I don't know, maybe he's hiding in there. I ask my soldier, "Go quickly, see what's under that bed" and he tries to pull the blanket, and no, it's… finally he grabs that blanket. I realize… I counted eight on one double mattress, eight children held together in some… dying of fright. Looking at us as if the next moment I'm going to do I don't know what. Each hiding behind the other's back. Like little cubs hiding… One behind the other, the other exposed so he scurries over and they all move… And I say, God almighty. I try to talk, I say, "Does anyone here understand Hebrew?", and with the Arabic… I don't speak Arabic but I manage to say a few broken words, and they say "No, no…" And my soldier asks me, "Listen, maybe we should search" and I feel there's nothing to search here but still I tell him, "You know what? Let's search". We're used to conducting searches in houses where we really search, so this one is… He began to search really thoroughly, knock on walls, check the place out for some hidden partitions. Finally I tell him, "Come on, they've understood. I hope they've understood". I know they haven't. Once more I go out. I come out of there in shock. I feel I lost this one. I'm defeated and the army is defeated. I mean, it's not I who lost. There's a whole village here that woke up at two o'clock in the morning. I think 90% of them didn't know why. I felt we did just the opposite here. All the looks I got were enough for me to understand that I did just the opposite. Regarding the Border Patrolmen, do you think that what you saw was… That's just the point. I know what you're going to ask me, so let me continue. We were stunned. I get inside the vehicle, an armored truck was brought on the spot, two of them. We were so many troops in the village. So I get on and a soldier, a commander, too, but not wearing his ranks, see that I'm rather stunned. I look at my mates, who are looking just as stunned as I am. So a soldier catches the two of us and says, "Guys, get used to it. This is how it is. That's it."
What soldier?A commander. Some sergeant from the Army, not Border Patrol, the regional brigade. He says to me, "Guys, cheer up. That's how it is. Nothing you can do about it. That's how it's done. That's what needs to be done." We returned, feeling very upset and said this was not right, what we'd done. We said this to our commander. We said what we felt, and I realized how unreasonable the situation was. I smoked my first cigarette after this event.
And you hadn't killed a terrorist?And I hadn't even killed a terrorist. I fired at people often before that, but here I felt the army had not done the right thing.
What is "often"? Had you been on combat duty?I was on combat duty. Lots of it. I had killed terrorists. But…
But smoked your first cigarette after that night? Yes. It was one of the worst nights. … On our way (to the village) I was not with him, but a friend of mine was, and the battalion commander was very agitated. He suddenly stopped his jeep, caught a (Palestinian) transit van, told the driver, "Show me your IDs". The guy handed him the IDs. "What's this, why are you driving around at such an hour?" and all. He began to rip the whole upholstery inside the car. He trashed the vehicle, found nothing, let him go.
A lieutenant-colonel. A lieutenant-colonel in the Israeli army. A battalion commander, responsible for hundreds of soldiers.Yes.