Gilad Shalit, for whom we gave up over 1,000 terrorist murderers, has admitted to military investigators (who went easy on him, since after all, this is the child of all Israelis) that he and his tank crew were incompetent, and did not fire a single bullet during his kidnapping. Two of the three other members of the tank crew died in the attack.
This story is the story of Gilad Schalit. This is his version, as told to the IDF investigators who questioned him. As stated, he feared his encounters with them; he was ashamed of what he had to tell them, yet he did so with an honesty that truly inspires respect. He didn’t try to conceal the truth; he told them he’d failed and acknowledged that he had not done his duty. He said this willingly, without any coercion or pressure.
Schalit has a phenomenal memory, he knows exactly what happened on each day of his captivity, when he was moved from place to place, what he ate, what was done and what happened.
And thus, for his interrogators, Gilad Schalit went over the details of the attack that led to his capture. Here is Schalit’s version, almost in its entirety (which the exception of the details that were redacted by the censor).
The attack took place in the pre-dawn darkness. Schalit’s tank crew was on guard duty outside the Gaza Strip. During the night, the crew took it in turns to rest – two keeping watch and two sleeping.
With the dawn, everyone was supposed to be awake, in his place and battle ready. At this stage, there is a communications check with the rest of the troops in the field, as well as with the operations room, and everyone reports that they are ready. This is what Schalit’s tank team should have been doing.
In reality, just one of the four-man team was awake – the rest were sleeping the sleep of the just. The driver was in the driver’s seat, the gunner (Schalit) was in his place, the comms guy in his and the commander in the commander’s turret.
Schalit was what is known in the army as “rosh katan” (literally, small head, and meaning someone with little or no initiative).
He was assigned for operational duty without knowing what was going on around him, the makeup of the area, or where the enemy lay. He had attended meetings and briefings before setting out on the mission, but had not immersed himself in the details. He was, after all, a member of a team, and trusted in his commander.
If he had listened to the company commander of the sector, who had issued detailed briefings, he would have known that there had been an explicit warning from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) about a possible Hamas infiltration from Gaza, perhaps via a tunnel, and an attempt to kidnap a soldier. If he had been aware that in his vicinity – and just a few minutes away – there were reinforcements, perhaps it could have changed the face of the battle and even prevented the abduction.
In the briefing before the operation, it was clearly stated where everyone was located in the field, the deployment layout and more. A unit from the Engineering Corps had been situated 200 meters from Schalit’s tank, next to the border fence, throughout the night. Col. Avi Peled, the senior commander in the sector, who was suffering from a manpower shortage, had wanted to give back-up to the tanks in the field, and had brought in the team from the Engineering Corps, assigned as a personal favor.
It would have been possible for Schalit to call on this backup, had he known that they were there, but he had not been paying attention when the information was imparted.
“I didn’t listen,” he admitted to the investigators. “The commander was listening, and that was enough. I trusted him.”
When the attack began, he was sleeping in his gunner’s seat, deep inside the tank. His personal weapon was on the floor underneath him; he wasn’t wearing his helmet, his bullet- proof vest was hanging on the back of the chair, and maybe his flak jacket was on.
As it turns out, the vest and the flak jacket saved his life.
Schalit went to sleep at 4:35 a.m. Until then, he had been on guard in the commander’s post, and had been relieved by a team member. Twenty-five minutes later, he was awoken by the impact of a rocket-propelled grenade striking the tank. He looked up to see the tank commander, Lt. Hanan Barak, and the driver, St.-Sgt. Pavel Slutzker, climbing out of the tank at speed.
“Gilad, get out of the tank!” Barak yelled at him. From beneath him, he could hear the voice of Cpl. Roi Amitai, calling “Hanan, Hanan,” but Barak and Slutzker were already out.
The command to leave the tank contravened operational orders. An RPG cannot do significant damage to a Merkava 3 tank, and this was a light strike on the side. Yes, it caused shock and agitation, but even so, this was no reason to abandon the tank – it wasn’t on fire, the grenade had caused minimal damage, the electronic systems were working, and no one on the team had been wounded.
Following the attack, after it was all over, an army technician went to the tank, turned on the engine and drove it away. The tank that Schalit had been in was capable of continuing to fight. A tank like this is a powerful war machine, with an effective, precise and swift cannon; it has three machine guns, primed and ready at the touch of the trigger, not to mention all the other advanced weaponry on board.
And yet the crew fled.
The officers questioning the post-captivity Schalit asked him if he had left the tank.
“No, I didn’t leave,” he replied.
“Why?” “Because the tank seemed safer than there, outside,” he said. “Outside is dangerous.
Inside was protected.”
With the departure of Barak and Slutzker, Schalit heard the rattle of light weapons being fired. It was this gunfire that killed the two crew members, and they fell from the tank onto the ground. Schalit heard them fall, then quiet, and realized that the two, one of whom was his commander, were either dead or seriously wounded.
Cpl. Roi Amitai, who had been fast asleep at the time of the attack, was trapped in his spot in the tank. Schalit understood that he was alone.
He decided to stay in the tank, and not get out and fight.
He had options, however, from inside. There was the machine gun, set up to be operated by the gunner without any need to stick his head out of the vehicle; he could have let off a few rounds and let the world know that the Merkava was still operational and in the fight. Yet he stayed put, in his seat, and hoped for the best.
Outside, at the same time, there were a total of two militants.
At this point Schalit was sitting in the gunner’s seat, praying for it to just be over. Then one of militants approached and threw two or three grenades into the turret. Schalit doesn’t recall the explosion of the grenades, but he does remember the smoke very well.
His bullet-proof vest and his flak jacket, hanging on the back of the chair, absorbed most of the impact. The chair was completely shredded.
Schalit, miraculously, was lightly wounded with shrapnel in his elbow and rear. He was scared, shocked. He stayed in the tank for a minute or two until the smoke spread throughout the turret and he found it hard to breathe. Then he decided, finally, to leave. He left unarmed. His gun, a deadly M-16, he left on the floor of the turret. In military terms, this is called abandoning your weapon.
If only Schalit had taken his gun with him when he left the tank; if only he had seen the militant approach the tank and start to climb up it. He could have taken him out easily, but he was not in battle mode. This is what Schalit himself told the investigators.
Schalit’s tank did not fire a single bullet.
Read the whole thing.
This is clearly a soldier who didn’t want to be in a combat unit. Maybe it’s time to stop throwing soldiers like this at the front lines and go to a volunteer army?