Wounded soldiers who took part in heavy combat Wednesday on the outskirts of the Hezbollah stronghold of Bint Jbail recounted their experiences from their hospital beds at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center, which received 22 of the wounded casualties of the battle.
"They suffer mostly from shrapnel and also from penetration of bullets," said Dr. Micky Hilbertal, who runs the emergency room where the soldiers are hospitalized. "Most of the injuries are in the limbs, a few of them are in the chest and stomach."
Hilbertal said the most similar experience he can recall when he was required to treat this many wounded was during the first Lebanon war. "[Back then], helicopters landed here almost non-stop," he said, noting that Rambam is working in full emergency mode.
The wounded soldiers described the battle as a bitter one which took place in a built-up setting, one where enemy forces had organized a well-planned ambush. Soldiers faced gunfire from any and all directions.
"They shot at us from 180 degrees," said one of the soldiers. Most of the dead and seriously wounded are those from the initial wave of ground troops which tried to enter one of the homes in Bint Jbail. The soldiers who suffered light wounds are primarily those who arrived on the scene to retrieve the bodies of the dead and wounded soldiers lying in the battlefield.
Some of the wounded were in an open field and others behind walls as well as inside homes. Sergeant Tzachi Duda suffered light injuries in his leg due to shrapnel.
"The battle began at 3:30 at night," he said. "Ten minutes after the first clash, we arrived to help. There was heavy fire from rocket launchers, missiles, rocket-propelled grenades. I provided cover fire for soldiers who tried to reach the wounded, and this went on for hours. Eventually, a missile hit the yard where I was standing. I was thrown back along with the wall which I was hiding behind. In my lifetime I never expected to see bodies and people with bullets in their chest."
Sergeant Ohed Shalom was wounded while attempting to recover a soldier's body which was lying behind a steel door.
"We tried to go in and break through the door but we didn't succeed," he said. "When I shot at the door, they saw me and shot in my direction."
Shalom, who sustained shrapnel wounds to his leg, said the soldiers did all in their power to prevent Hezbollah gunmen from reaching their comrades' bodies.
The soldiers also recounted feats of heroism displayed by their friends. "They carried soldiers on stretchers while simultaneously shooting at terrorists," Shalom said.
"It was hell on earth," Corporal Lior Sharabi said. "People risked their lives not only for the wounded but also for the dead bodies."
Sharabi added that Hezbollah fighters demonstrated impressive combat capabilities. "They are strong fighters, not like us, but better than Hamas," he said.
One of Hezbollah's most troublesome position from which it fired upon soldiers was the towering mosque in the village.
"There were maybe 30 terrorists [in the mosque]," Shalom said.
Staff Sergeant Avraham Dajan was hit in his arm by shrapnel. "They fired from all directions, we tried to get to the wounded," he said. "As I was about to throw a grenade, I got hit by shrapnel. After I was hurt, I couldn't do anything. I saved myself."
Some of the wounded soldiers spoke of face-to-face clashes with Hezbollah operatives. However, none of the soldiers gave first-hand accounts of such incidents. The soldiers, who serve in the 51st battalion of the Golani infantry brigades, said their stay in Lebanon extended to three consecutive days, during which they managed very little sleep.
"We lived in one of the houses and about every hour or so we would wake up out of fear that someone had entered the house," Shalom said. "Every once in a while, we would move from house to house."
"Even after a day like this, the morale is higher," said Ram Boneh, a 20-year-old resident of Hadera who was lightly wounded by shrapnel. "I want to go out and return to active duty."
"At 12:30, [Boneh] called and told us he was in Rambam and that we shouldn't worry," Boneh's mother, Heska, said. "We came here immediately from Hadera. It's very hard for me [to deal] with what is happening. I'm Dutch and I wasn't educated on the army, and it's very difficult for me to deal with the fact that he's a fighter. But I am with him and I trust him as well as the entire army."
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