Diplomacy & defense

Smoke billows from buildings following an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 31, 2014
The blast that broke the ceasefire, Goldin's disappearance and his squad's search: how it unfolded

Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin of the Givati Infantry Brigade was taken hostage Friday by Hamas and killed minutes after a proposed humanitarian ceasefire entered effect, shortly after 06:00 GMT. This is how the minutes immediately before and after the attack during which he was captured unfolded, according to an unnamed source speaking to i24news.

Forces of Hadar Goldin's Givati unit followed an intelligence lead regarding a terror tunnel, the entrance to which was located some two miles into Gaza territory. Having arrived during the night, the soldiers started to move on the road in daylight in order to locate the shaft of the tunnel. The area of the operation is rural land, with farms and greenhouses scattered around.

Around 6:00 GMT the force locates the tunnel. Major Benaya Sarel goes into the field with a unit of two, including Goldin and the radio operator Liel Gidoni. As they are proceeding forth, terrorists open fire at the unit. As they proceed along to a greenhouse, a blast killed Sarel and Gidoni. Additional troops were spread nearby, and the closest squad that was holding position attempted to reach Sarel, the company commander. It took them several minutes to realize what happened and for the company's deputy commander to reach the location of the blast, where they found the bodies of Sarel, Gidoni and the terrorist.

When the company deputy commander noticed the three bodies, he immediately realized that 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin was missing, and made the operative decision to follow and locate the officer, whom he assumed was taken captive. At this point he entered the tunnel, despite clear instructions that they should not be entered without sappers' backup, for they could be mined. The squad began to scout the tunnel, locating several items which belonged to Goldin.

This whole time, as the squad entered the tunnel, much tension was spread across the military communications network: from the Givati brigade commander through the Southern Command chief and up to the Chief of Staff himself. Many tense minutes after, the squad emerged from the tunnel, with bad news in tow: Hadar Goldin is most likely in the hands of Hamas.

Southern Command chief, Maj. Gen. Sami Tourjeman said over the weekend that he personally knew the commander of the Givati Special Forces unit, Benaya Sarel, "He was definitely one of our finest, the man who led the force. We paid a high cost. But we must remember that despite its price, this operation revealed an assault tunnel that reached Israeli territory."

This assault tunnel is 2500 meters long, it has two exit points and it leads up to Israeli territory, the area near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in the southern Eshkol Regional Council. Both exit points are deeper into Gazan territory: one is in a mosque and the other is in a Hamas command center. As soon as it was revealed that Goldin was taken captive, the army forces moved westward, covered by heavy fire, a tanks battalion and infantry forces. Their goal: to shut off the terrorists' escape route. All those actions, however, did not bear immediate fruit, so massive intelligence efforts to locate any details that could lead to the captive officer immediately began.

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