I’d like to share this with you from my weekend reading so that you understand why – despite everything you might be reading by our enemies in the local and foreign press – Israel is going to win this war.
Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Yoni Hacohen, commander of Paratroop Battalion 890, by Noam Amir, from Makor Rishon.
According to Yoni, there was a planned exercise for the battalion which was to take place beginning on October 7, right after the holiday. In preparation for this, from Wednesday to Friday, he’d been busy packing equipment, going over battle plans, readying his unit so soldiers could climb into buses Saturday night to begin the exercise.
This never happened. Instead, he got a phone call at 6:30 Shabbat morning. Fully equipped and ready, his paratroopers went south instead. They had no idea what was happening there. No one in the IDF did. They knew there were non-stop missile attacks, riots at the border with Gaza, and skirmishes with terrorists at army posts.
They began by fighting in Nahal Oz, where they evacuated the injured, and then received a request from Battalion Commander Tomer Greenberg ז״ל [who later fell in battle] to join him at Kfar Aza. But on the way, Hacohen got a phone call from his bureau chief directing him to the military outpost where there were dead, wounded, and terrorists. Another battalion went to Kfar Aza. “The whole outpost was on fire. When we opened a door, six Golani brigade soldiers poured out with a commander who had a bullet in his head. After that we found a few of the girl lookouts that were still alive. Four other military companies arrived by helicopter – the first one that had landed in the area. Miraculously, a few minutes after the last soldier got off, the helicopter was destroyed by a missile. “That is when the real fighting at the outpost began.”
Did you understand at that point how big this was?
“I had an idea because I had been to Nachal Oz, but the soldiers arriving by helicopter still had no idea. About the party in the desert, I still hadn’t heard. We continued fighting in Nachal Oz, and sent two battalions to Be’eri and Alumim. In Alumim, there was a fire-fight with 15 terrorists. We destroyed them all. In Be’eri, three company commanders were wounded and a fourth was killed. That‘s when I understood how all the preparations for the exercise, the readiness of our equipment and weapons, had been vital in preparing us for this fight. “
Hacohen’s battalion spent three weeks there, killing dozens of terrorists and imprisoning dozens more, helping to gain complete control of the area before entering Gaza itself.
“On November 5 we entered Gaza. Our task was to destroy the local Hamas battalion. We entered an area with endless tunnel openings, high rises, bombs, and terrorists embedded in dense population centers. We began a meshugah battle. But eventually, we cleared the area of terrorists, tunnel openings, and weapons. We finished pretty quickly. Our next assignment was Zeiton, 2.5 kilometers inside Gaza. On the way, we wiped out massive numbers of terrorists, an underground bomb factory, and the military headquarters of the Hamas commander, which yielded very important intelligence information. After ten days, we went into the first ceasefire agreement for the hostages. We used the time to find tunnel openings and prepared to blow them up as soon as the ceasefire ended.”
Following this, his battalion took on one of the strongest Hamas fighting units in Sagee’ya. They spent two weeks fighting there, blowing up buildings, destroying the Hamas fighters, and taking control over the entire area up to the border.
“It was a Sisyphean task – every house, every weapons cache, every tunnel opening. One after the other. But in the end, no enemy remains, no terrorist, no infrastructure.”
After two days of rest, the Battalion returned to the fight in central Gaza. “There were amazing battles, that included a lot of enemy tricks, terrorists popping up out of tunnels, terrorists hiding in schools. We finished two days ago and left with Battalion 36.”
What is your next assignment?
“I’m not allowed to say. But we will go back to south Gaza and finish the job. We aren’t forgetting that there are still 133 hostages left behind there. We will repair our equipment, rest a little, and come back when we are called.”
What do you think of the enemy?
“They are a serious threat and have prepared themselves well. But they didn’t stand a chance. In many instances, they simply folded and ran away. They are cowards who hide behind civilians in mosques and schools. Every time we reach them, there isn’t any real fight. We are a thousand times stronger. They just melt. There is nothing here that the IDF can’t handle with tanks and the air force. Two things I want to add: Number one: our military exercises and preparedness made all the difference. Number two: we need to beg forgiveness from this young generation. We thought they were spoiled. But they’re not. They’re professional, value-driven, and understand the mission. It is a great privilege to be their commander.”