By Asher Intrater
The commando unit of Givati Division divided into two groups to check houses for terror tunnels in Gaza during the so-called “cease fire” last Thursday. One was led by Captain Benaya, and the other by his assistant, Lieutenant Eitan. Benaya’s unit entered one of the houses, and a group of Hamas terrorists came out of a 1.5 meter opening of a concealed shaft and shot to death Benaya’s lead team of three soldiers.
Eitan’s group was about 300 meters away resting. They heard the shots and came running. Two of the dead bodies were pulled to the side. Eitan realized that his immediate commander was dead, meaning that he was now in charge of the unit. Eitan (age 23!) called for “iron numbers” – a quick roll call to see if anyone is missing. Two minutes later it became clear that Hadar Golding was missing. Eitan called for the “Hannibal rule” – all forces to search for the kidnapped soldier.
Eitan saw blood marks leading up to the shaft entrance. It was clear that Golding was dragged into the tunnel. Eitan said, “I’m going after him.” By radio the next two levels of officers above him said it was too dangerous. He refused to yield. He got special permission from the Colonel over Givati Division. He started to go down, but realized it was too clumsy. He took off all his equipment, including helmet, and took only a pistol. He told two other soldiers on his team to follow after him.
They went down into the total darkness, with a flashlight, feeling their way along. They followed after signs of blood. They went on: 100 meters, 200, 300. Eitan said, “This is taking too long.” He started running deep into the tunnel. They got to a distance of 1,000 meters until they found the exit shaft – but it was sealed shut. They returned. They brought back enough evidence to confirm Golding’s death. Because of this evidence, these brave soldiers prevented an international hostage crisis and likely saved thousands of lives.
Lieutenant Eitan had been 50 days in continuous action. He was told by reporters, “You’ll receive a national medal of honor for this.” Eitan, thin, shy and delicate- featured, replied, “I don’t want a medal. I’m not a hero. I was just in the right place at the right time. Anyone would have done the same. This is the spirit of our unit; the spirit of the IDF, the spirit of the people of Israel.”
(Photo: Hadar Golding, the soldier’s whose death was confirmed by Lieutenant Eitan’s selfless actions)