At the eye of the Gaza storm is the Golani Brigade. Golani is currently operating in the sector in which the IDF has seen the toughest battles with Hamas, the eastern part of Gaza City. Two days ago, Staff Sgt. Dvir Emanueloff of the brigade?s engineering company was killed in action, and last week an ammunition NCO, Lutfi Nasereldeen, was killed by a mortar on an army base near the Strip.
Golani has a complex image within the IDF. On one hand, it is known as a brigade that struggles with no small number of disciplinary problems and scandals, caused by bad behavior ranging from revolts against commanders to abuse of Palestinians. On the other hand, whenever the army finds itself taking on missions demanding determination, verve and esprit de corps, Golani is among the first brigades it calls.
The brigade carried much of the combat burden in both the second intifada and the Second Lebanon War. Since 2003, Golani has also been involved in combating Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, a task formerly fulfilled mainly by the Givati Brigade. While Golani operates under GOC Northern Command, its units are sent to combat zones on a number of different fronts in both the West Bank and Gaza.
In virtually every conflagration, Golani is rushed to the conflict point. In April 2002, during the intifada, the brigade played a central role in Operation Defensive Shield and the missions preceding it, and Golani?s actions in the Jenin and Tul Karm refugee camps led to the elimination of a number of wanted militants.
It was largely the low casualty toll, and the mass surrender of armed militants in Tul Karm, that gave the political and security establishments the confidence to conquer the major West Bank cities in that massive operation.
Golani participated in the siege on Yasser Arafat?s Muqata compound in Ramallah, the capture of the casbah in Nablus ?(along with the Paratroops?), and in the difficult fighting in Jenin refugee camp.
In 2005, the brigade participated in the disengagement from Gaza, including the evacuation of the Gush Katif settlements. In the following year?s Second Lebanon War, it saw fierce battle with Hezbollah in the villages of Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbail and suffered 14 casualties between two battalions.
As in Defensive Shield, the combat took place in tight urban areas, and Golani soldiers were highly awarded with citations.
Golani?s current commander, Col. Yossi Peled, has been in the position for only a few months. A veteran of the occupation of southern Lebanon, he later spent several years in the West Bank and was lightly wounded by a suicide bomber in Jenin refugee camp during Defensive Shield.
Now commanding in Gaza, he and his subordinates have chosen to remain in the field with the troops, unlike commanders in the Lebanon war, many of whom preferred to monitor the battle via TV screens far away from the fighting, rather than by observing developments on the ground.