Capt. Z., an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer, shares a personal account of the multi-pronged terror attack on August 18th, 2011:
The morning of August, 18, 2011, began with a graduation ceremony for new soldiers. Following the speeches and celebrations, we headed back to our unit. Back at the base, we got the call that started everything – the order to grab our gear and hit the road. Everyone had already heard rumors that something big had happened, some kind of terrorist attack involving a bus and arms fire. I am an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer. My team and I are called up when explosives are found in the battlefield and need to be defused or detonated in a controlled manner. The battlefield is my workshop, a fact which was about to be driven home.
We arrived at the scene, approximately 20km north of Eilat, a city renowned for its beaches, coral reefs and nightlife. It was hard to swallow the scene of carnage just miles from a thriving center of tourism. The desert landscape was shattered by the burned husk of a civilian bus, a bullet-riddled car and a flipped-over vehicle. Beyond that, there were dead bodies–dead Israeli civilians and terrorists were scattered all around.
Background information prior to our arrival at the scene
Around 12:30 PM, a squad of at least seven terrorists opened fire on a civilian bus. While the bullets injured 14 passengers, the bus driver remained cool under pressure: He speed up and simultaneously reported the incident. Meanwhile, the same terrorists opened fire on two other civilian vehicles, four adults in their mid-50s were killed at gun point in one of the cars. A civilian was killed and another injured in a separate vehicle that had flipped over. A bus driving near the incidents was blown to pieces after a terrorist detonated an explosive device, killing the bus driver.
After arriving at the scene, our force noticed that one of the terrorists was wearing an explosive device. We immediately cleared MADA, the Israeli medical services, away from the scene. After a closer inspection, we saw that numerous explosive devices were located nearby. We got to work, using a remote control robot to defuse a bomb that was strapped to one of the terrorists. Suddenly we were hit by fire coming from the west. Everyone at the scene–the regional commanders, platoon commander, and my unit’s commander–hit the floor. Who ever could find cover near the shoulder of the road dropped down, guns ready to shoot. I heard a shout from my right, telling me that someone had been hit. It was Chief Warrent Officer Paskal Abrahami, a legendary sniper from the Israel Police’s elite civilian counter-terrorism unit.
As soon as those shots were fired, everything slowed down. Years of training, dating back to my volunteer service as a medic in MDA, kicked in. With the adrenalin coursing through your veins, everthing becomes so primal, so clear. You focus on survival, you focus on saving the people around you and then you focus on the bigger picture – Israel’s survival. I crawled over to Pascal, reaching him at the same time as some other people. We stripped off his ceramic vest and saw that he was losing blood, fast. I screamed to get the attention of the medic, who brought the doctor over too. We started with CPR, doing everything in our power with the limited supplies we had on hand.
All the while, shots continued to fly. We were glued down to the floor for nearly two hours, returning fire and waiting for the scene to calm down. Finally, our soldiers, together with aerial support, managed to kill the rest of the terrorists, allowing us to continue with our work. The work is slow, careful work…but we finally managed to get out at around midnight. All the while, reports of rockets falling in southern Israel continued.
I had managed to get off a text message to my parents, even spoke to them for a couple of minutes, before we got there. Once it was over, sitting in the car on the way back, I called my girlfriend, who was studying Industrial Management at Tel Aviv University, and it all hit me. We spoke for a while on the way back to base, me calming her down after she had spent the afternoon glued to her TV screen, and at about 01:15, I crawled back into bed. By 03:45, we were back up, searching the areas with fine-toothed combs to make sure that no explosives were left. And with the job complete, we went back to maintaining high alert, sending home as many as people as possible for a well-deserved weekend off, but always vigilant, always ready for that next phone call.