Here — word for word — is a really dismal “pool report” from two Foreign Press Association members who agreed to enter Gaza “embedded” with the Israeli military. According to this report, they spoke only to the Israeli military.
“embargoed until 8 pm
Pool report by Charles Levinson WSJ and Ethan Bronner NYT
Colonel of southern command
Black Arrow memorial to events in 1955 when fedayeen came from Egyptian Gaza and attacked Israeli towns.
He said we were 700 meters from perimeter fence, jeeps, APCs and tanks coming and going. We saw large plumes of black smoke and flames. He says it is soujaiyia area. Not sure what is on fire. ‘It’s more smoky than usual’. He added that during the 3-hour lull each day, they only defend their people, do not initiate any attacks.
Then we were taken to the IDF base just outside northwestern edge of Gaza.
Brig. Gen. Avi Ronzki, chief rabbi of the IDF, who lives in the settlement of Itamar, was there. Long gray and white beard, kippa and a rifle. He said: ‘It is a very righteous war and has the full support of public opinion. Reminds me of the 6-day war. Our army is showing the way to stop terrorists. And in order to win against terror we need to use a lot of force like the Americans are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are an ancient people and fighting for our survival for a long time. Morale is very high. The soldiers want to continue and destroy Hamas. I believe that even if you leave a small core of Hamas, it will rise again. It needs to be snuffed out’.
Capt. Doron Spielman of the IDF spokesman unit gave background on unit 101 which was one of the battalions in the paratrooper brigade we were with. Formed in 1953 by Ariel Sharon, charged by Ben-Gurion to go into Gaza and strike the Fedayeen who were raiding Yad Mordechai. Between 49 and 53 500 Israelis were killed in those raids.
We rode for half an hour past what were the settlements of Dugit and Alei Sinai to El Atatra. We were taken in two APCs, one of which was called the Ahzarit (cruel lady) and Nagmachon.
We were told this had been one of the heaviest rocket launching areas.
Sgt Almog, 20., the gunner in one APC, said of the Hamas fighters: ‘they are villagers with guns. They don’t even aim when they shoot. Seven members of his unit were injured by an RPG attack the previous day. We kept saying Hamas was a strong terror organization but it was more easy than we thought it would be’.
Huge booms and constant rattle around us at 2:35. We are close to the sea, rural outskirts of village, large two-story houses all abandoned, none in sight that were too badly damaged. Crushed greenhouses. The fields had been planted with tomatoes, potatoes, red peppers, strawberries. It was pretty dug up by tank tracks.
Merkava tank rolls up five minutes later and Col. Herzi popped out of the hatch and jumped out of the hatch. He apologized for his lateness and for having arrived by tank, his jeep was down. He is unshaven, salt-and-pepper hair, binoculars around his neck, carrying rifle. He is paratroop brigade commander.
He was reading from an IDF briefing book.
‘What you see here is not a pleasant scene. War is not pleasant. I don’t like this environment. I don’t like war. I lost a person here yesterday in the early morning, one of our battalion commanders up there in that house (high ground). Every Palestinian body and every destroyed house I see is something I don’t like but they didn’t give us any choice. We have to show them they should stop and find another way to live with us. On the way in I guess you saw the ruined houses and wondered why they were that way. When they crossed the line and we know they try every day, they send women to commit suicide in our camps and posts it is difficult for me as an officer. You don’t want to find a suicide bomber inside your platoon’.
‘The easiest way to do this war is air power but we chose to go in on the ground and into each house in order not to destroy the whole area. I can say that one third of the houses are booby trapped. You get into the houses and you see many IEDs. We had one officer who got married one day before this operation started and then five days into it he was badly wounded and is now between life and death after an IED exploded in a booby trapped house’.
(Showed pictures of mannequin, of a tunnel, of IEDs).
‘We came into the green areas and we found many rockets aimed at Ashkelon, rocket launching sites surrounded by IEDs’.
‘My hope is that after this war there will be a lesson learned for Hamas that is strong enough to prevent another war’.
(an account of their taking this place on the first day of the ground war) ‘We came here at night, we took the high land first then we pushed from three sides to the center of gravity the small town of Al Atratra. Then we took two or three days walking house to house in order to find many rifles and many grenades. We hardly found any civilians. (Showed pix of IEDs found yesterday in wall of a mosque)’.
How is the fighting force of Hamas?
‘They are fighting but not in a strong way. Sometimes they confront us in teams of 3 to 5, other times as many as 50. I know that in the end Hamas will say they won. It doesn’t matter what will be the end of this war, we know they know today that they have a problem. Will they put down their weapons forever? For sure, no, but I think they have learned a lesson from this war’.
The Foreign Press Association”