By J. Levitt
Israel Defense Forces Lt. Eitan, 23, for the first time on Friday described the harrowing search for Lt.Hadar Goldin, also 23, killed in combat by Hamas but initially believed kidnapped.
The interview was published on the IDF Spokesperson’s blog.
In March 2010, Lt. Eitan joined the IDF’s elite Givati Brigade unit. In his commanders course, he met Lt. Hadar Goldin, who would later fight by his side in Operation Protective Edge, in which 64 IDF soldiers gave their lives.
At 8:00 AM on Friday August 1, Israel and Hamas had reached a temporary ceasefire. Taking advantage of the relative calm, Lt. Eitan and his fellow soldiers, who had not slept for 24 hours, took turns sleeping while others guarded and inspected houses thought to have been used for terror activity, the IDF said.
During one of those inspections, the soldiers’s commander, Maj. Sarel, noticed they were being watched from the rooftop of another house. Accompanied by First Sgt. Lial Gidoni and Lt. Hadar Goldin, Maj. Sarel approached to assess the danger.
Suddenly, the IDF soldiers were being shot at and an explosion rocked the area. Amid the confusion, the IDF said even the other armed militants in the vicinity did not understand what was happening, “Hamas terrorists had violated the ceasefire.”
Lt. Eitan and his soldiers, who were nearby, immediately moved to assist.
“When I arrived, I saw two of our soldiers being taken into a house,” Lt. Eitan said. “It was the same moment that we were told that we had found a tunnel opening at the location. Fearing a possible explosion, I ordered everyone to get away.”
“No one really knew what had happened but suddenly someone shouted: ‘Goldin’s gone, Goldin’s disappeared!’ We quickly started counting soldiers and everyone was present except one: Goldin was missing.”
“The brigade commander, Col. Ofer Vinter, contacted me on the radio, and I told him that I was going into the tunnel to look for Goldin,” he said. “I went four meters down into the tunnel when it began to collapse. I could hardly see anything; sand and stones were obscuring the light. I returned to the surface, took my equipment, my helmet and gun, and went back into the tunnel with my soldiers.”At that moment, Lt. Eitan realized that Lt. Goldin had been kidnapped by Hamas forces dragging him into a tunnel. Lt. Eitan regrouped his unit and told them that two officers had been killed and that another soldier had likely been kidnapped. A deafening silence filled the room. “I have never experienced anything so difficult,” Lt. Eitan said.
Lt. Eitan led a group of soldiers into the tunnel, warning that it could be booby trapped and that if danger arose, they needed to open fire immediately.
“There, I saw Hadar’s blood and his equipment.” To his right, Eitan found bags blocking the passage and a gun. He stepped forward, opened one of the bags and found explosives inside. He then sent an explosive expert to defuse them.
Lt. Eitan wanted to reach the end of the tunnel to find Lt. Goldin, but he knew that terrorists could kill him or take him hostage, he said.
“I turned around and said to my commander, ‘Count how long I’m here. I will run as fast as possible to reach the tunnel’s entrance. During this time, call the other soldiers into the tunnel. If I’m not back in 5 minutes – I’m dead.'”
Lt. Eitan started running as he fired. Inside the tunnel, he saw more explosives, weapons, and entrances to other tunnels. After 10 minutes, he decided to turn back, realizing that the danger was too great.
Once he reached the opening of the tunnel, his officers gave him the order to search the Rafah area for Lt. Goldin.
During Operation Protective Edge, the area was a hotbed of Hamas for terror activity. One incident occurred on the night of July 18, when Hamas sent a donkey rigged with explosives towards IDF forces. On August 3, Special Forces from the Givati Brigade discovered more than 150 mortar shells and a tunnel in the city.
Dozens of soldiers moved toward the main road between the agricultural district and the most populated area of Rafah. Terrorists shot at the soldiers, who returned fire and continued to search the area, but they found no sign of Lt. Goldin.
The IDF said: “A day later, on August 2, a special IDF committee concluded that Lt. Goldin was killed in combat. He fought honorably to protect Israelis against the terrorists who ended up taking his life. The brave actions of Lt. Eitan, who risked his life to save Lt. Goldin, embody the IDF’s core value that every human life is worth saving. His heroism is an example to every IDF soldier.”
Lt. Goldin was engaged to be married to Edna Seroussi, 24.
“I’m a widow without ever getting married,” Seroussi told the Makor Rishon newspaper after the funeral in Kfar Saba, in central Israel.