Let’s begin with your entry. Where did you enter the Gaza Strip?We crossed the fence. The first day was the scariest. All the tension that built up during those days [of waiting] – you point your weapon at every bush you see. Then you become indifferent, not too much, but less [tense] than the first day. You hear gunfire and bombings and planes overhead.
You went in to the paratroopers’ section, in the northern Gaza Strip?Yes, we came in from the north and took up a position in a building. We started doing guard shifts in the building.
Was the building already empty or did you clear it?We cleared it. You don't throw a grenade into every room, but fire a lot at the building beforehand, and then you go in and 'open 'up every room properly.
You go into the building shooting live fire?No. There was no one [there], but if there had been, I don’t know if we would have fired or not, I think it depends on who it is, if it’s a child or woman or elderly person. I believe that others would have fired, because it endangers the soldiers. A place that’s been under constant bombing is not a place where people live. People would have left by then.
You come and take over a house?Guard duty, meals – passing the time. After two days, you’ve had enough and want to get back. To this day, we’re still pissed off that it wasn’t seen as a war...
How long were you in that house?In the first house, about two days. Then we moved to another house where we spent a longer time, about a week. We went through houses, from house to house. In the house where we stayed a week there was a lot of food, and we cooked rice and got war rations too, so we used both. We left the house pretty wrecked, but we didn’t wreck it on purpose. We tried to be as okay as possible, but sometimes we had to wreck things to defend ourselves. Just an example: if I can break a cup to defend myself, soldiers will do that. Or cracks to shoot out of – you have to make them. They ruin their own houses to open shooting cracks, so obviously the IDF is going to do that too.
Did you have encounters? Were you shot at?No, I didn’t experience any one-on-one fighting.
Did you direct other forces, like tanks?Yes. It was more the officers’ job. Once in a while we’d go out at night, on an action, check out several houses, and get back. There was a house where we spent a long time, I remember the whole house, what it looked like. We laughed that in twenty years’ time there would be peace and we’d go into that house and say “We were here in the war twenty years ago”. We said that they’d kill us, because we left behind a real mess, we never cleaned because there was no water, you use the water for drinking. We sat there all day drinking coffee. I heard about soldiers in other platoons who did vandalize houses on purpose. The feeling was that tomorrow we might all be blown to bits, so you use a bit of humor to release the tension.
What missions were you sent on?Once, we got to some houses and started firing, and they fired back at us from the houses. Helicopters also took part and fired at houses. They returned fire and you could tell the Kalachnikov (AK-47 rifle) fire from our own fire. You also know that our own forces are not in there. It’s scary. You fire at a house which you know is empty, and suddenly someone fires back at you. In the war I felt pretty secure, because the IDF is a thousand times stronger than they are, you see tanks and D-9s (armored bulldozers). It’s like starting a fist fight with a baby. Sometimes you can’t understand it.
Did you see D-9s (bulldozers) at work?Yes. I really liked the D-9s, it’s a powerful vehicle, it takes trees down like toothpicks. Sometimes the D-9s had to clear the houses around us, raze the trees around the house, and that was sad because they took down very old lemon trees. On the other hand, even the most extreme leftist would agree to doing that, because it’s impossible otherwise.
Is that what was mostly taken down, trees? Or houses too?Houses too. There was this house we entered that was booby-trapped. You don’t want to mess with that, so a D-9 took it down, you bring in explosives and take it down. I must say that I’m a leftist and I thought the army was much worse, but even the orders coming down from the top levels, I saw that they really were careful. Maybe they were doing it for the world [to see], but any damage to property was done to protect us soldiers. Everyone I was with, we never destroyed anything just for fun.
What did the tanks do there?I saw a tank fire a few shells, it’s an experience. I don’t want to define what kind of experience it is, but seeing a tank shelling a house, that’s powerful.
A house that had been fired from?I don’t know, a house that the army wanted to enter. There are houses that are fired at before entry, and others that are not, depending on the intelligence. I think that most houses are fired at before entry, and if anyone’s inside, sometimes they fire back. Sometimes they wait for you to enter before they open fire.
That was the tank action you saw in your area.Some of the houses we fired at with M-16 (rifles), into the windows. There was one house that we shelled before going in. I remember going in at night, you can’t see anything, you get up in the morning and see that the whole house has turned to dust.