Artillery Officer Unknowingly Aids in Wounded Son's Evacuation

When Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvi Fogel was directing the artillery fire cover for the evacuation of six wounded soldiers from Gaza City's Sajaiyeh neighborhood on Monday, he did not know his son David was one of the men he was helping rescue.

Fogel, an artillery officer by training, is in charge of Southern Command artillery operations for Operation Cast Lead. He has years of experience in the Gaza Strip, and during the early years of the second intifada he was Southern Command chief of staff, under Yom-Tov Samiah and Doron Almog.

"When we found out there were casualties in Sajaiyeh, everyone near Fogel turned white," a military source told Haaretz yesterday. Fogel often had told others in the situation room that his 20-year-old son was a sniper in the forward company of Battalion 13, which was deployed in that sector.

Within minutes, the team knew the wounded were from Battalion 13's forward forces.

Fogel insisted on continuing with his work, of providing covering fire to enable the casualties to be rescued amid Hamas mortar fire.

"I'll fall apart later," Fogel told officers in the vicinity. "Now is the time to work."

David Fogel, meanwhile, was on guard duty on the top floor of the building that was hit by an errant IDF tank shell. He heard two blasts, and then a wall fell on him. He later told his mother that after realizing that he was only slightly injured, he lit a flashlight and began helping evacuate the more seriously wounded. All the casualties were rescued by an Air Force helicopter and taken to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

"They told me it was his battalion, but it never crossed my mind that my son was among the wounded," Zvi Fogel said. "A little before eight, my other son called me and said 'Dad, we're going to Tel Hashomer.'"

Return to Gaza

After a brief visit with his son, Zvi Fogel returned to Southern Command headquarters in Be'er Sheva.

Oren Cohen, Commander of Battalion 13, is in serious but stable condition with head and arm injuries. He lost a finger in the explosion.

Cohen led his troops into eastern Gaza City on Saturday night, where they have been engaged in fierce battles. Last week, before the incursion into Gaza, the battalion's munitions officer, Lutfi Nasereldeen, was killed in a mortar strike at the Nahal Oz base. Much of Cohen's army service has been with the Golani Brigade, in Gaza and in Lebanon. In 2001 he was second in command to Avi Peled, currently brigade commander, in Battalion 51.

Peled was injured lightly in Monday's explosion. He refused medical attention and for several hours directed the evacuation in the field before consenting to be taken to Be'er Sheva's Soroka Medical Center. He returned to his duties shortly thereafter. Peled sustained shock wave injuries, including hearing loss, in the blast.