VIDEO: Minute by minute in ‘Operation Arnon’

The movement secretly and in daylight to the buildings where the four abductees were kept. The fall of the IDF soldier Arnon Zamora in fighting to rescue three of them. The influx of hundreds of armed terrorists to the area. And the unusual permission given to the assault helicopters to land deep in the Gaza Strip. This is how the operation was conducted in which Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Shlomi Ziv and Andrey Kozlov were rescued

Thursday, 18:30: After careful planning, exercises and models, and advanced intelligence surveillance that lasted for many weeks, the political echelon approves the operation initially called “Summer Seeds”. The approval was done in a classified discussion, under heavy compartmentalization and waiting for the right moment.

Saturday, 10:00: Two central commando teams leap from several directions, when they are upset, towards the Nusirat refugee camp near the coast. The forces move in broad daylight secretly to the two buildings where the abductees were held, with thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of terrorists from the local Hamas battalion among them – who are not noticed. According to the Palestinians, the forces entered using a humanitarian aid truck – and Al Jazeera even published documentation of it with IDF vehicles, apparently from the moments after the operation. The IDF denied this, and also denied that they later used the American pier.

10:45 Special ground observations and technological surveillance means from Air Force aircraft detect that the area is clean and there is no suspicious movement in the two buildings, 3-4 stories. Noa Argamani was held in one of them and in the other the three other abductees, with Gazan families and armed guards.

10:50: The information and live documentation of the hundreds of meters long alleys that separate the two targets are transferred to the screens of the two security forces that commanded the operation from them: of the Shin Bet in the center of the country in the presence of the head of the service Ronan Bar and Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, and of the Southern Command in Be’er Sheva, from where the commanding general directed the envelopment and rescue forces.

11:00: The two teams on the ground receive the “act” order that was personally approved in real time by the head of the Shin Bet and the Chief of Staff. They attack the buildings simultaneously and in full coordination, at the same second, to prevent the terrorists in the second target from discovering this – which would endanger the abductees.

11:10: While the elimination of the terrorists who guarded Argamani and the rescue goes relatively smoothly, the operation in the second building is much more complicated. Zamora’s commander’s team reports that he was injured in the exchange of fire. The fighters who eliminated the terrorists at that target take care of their commander and try to save him on the way out of the building, under increasing fire.

11:15: The announcement that everyone was waiting for is reported. “The diamonds are in our hands” – meaning, the stolen ones are with us.

11:20: Under the cover of the delay, dozens of terrorists gather around the building where the three hostages were held, and hundreds more armed men approach from all sides with RPGs, PK machine guns and Kalashnikov rifles. They run through the crowded alleys and the nearby market, crowded with thousands of Gazans.

11:22: The troops try to escape in the rescue vehicle, but it is hit by heavy fire and begins to falter. Major General of the Southern Command Yaron Finkelman then activates the rescue plan that was prepared in advance.

11:25: Air Force fighter jets and helicopters launch dozens of weapons at the terrorists in order to isolate the arena. Hundreds of fighters from the 7th Brigades, the Paratroopers, Givati, and Kafir who were stationed as reinforcements are jumped on foot as well as in tanks and anti-aircraft guns into the refugee camp, and navy ships are covering from the west.

11:30: The reinforcement forces and the air force manage to isolate the main battle scene, thus providing a safe escape route for the main force with the three hostages. The Southern Command abnormally authorizes Air Force attack helicopters to land for rescue deep in the Gaza Strip, covered by the fire of fighter jets. The fire from the air hits the terrorists, tens of meters from the soldiers.

11:50 The last fighters from the special forces get on the helicopters that take off to the hospitals in Israel. Attempts to revive Commander Arnon Zamora continue even in the air, but at the hospital they are forced to declare his death. The reinforcements from the IDF brigades continue to engage the terrorists in the shell of the operation – and eliminate dozens more of them, until the end of the operation.

13:33: The IDF, the Shin Bet and the police officially announce the rescue of the four abductees, and spontaneous celebrations begin – both in Israel and among Israelis abroad.

EDITORS NOTE: This Newsrael column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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