Visitors to Israel have long recounted with awe that while in the Holy Land they learned that Israeli military commanders do not direct from the background, but personally lead their troops into battle.
And it is no myth. This fact was poignantly demonstrated on Saturday when the commanding officer of the Golani Infantry Brigade, a colonel by rank, was moderately wounded by terrorist gunfire while holding the frontline in Gaza together with his soldiers.
Late last year, Col. Ghassan Alian, an Israeli Druze, made headlines when he became the first non-Jewish commander of the fabled brigade.
As Israel escalated its ground war in Gaza over the weekend, Col. Alian (pictured) did what all Israeli army commanders do on the eve of battle - he delivered encouraging words to the soldiers under his direct command, and then he suited up and took the lead as they marched into enemy territory.
Details regarding the battle in which Col. Alian was wounded are still under wraps, but it is presumed that he and his troops were part of the large-scale effort to seek out and destroy Hamas’ network of terror tunnels in northern Gaza.
Following the firefight, Col. Alian was evacuated to Soroka Hospital in nearby Beersheva, where he was listed in moderate-but-stable condition. He was displeased with the situation, telling family and doctors that he intended to return to the Gaza Strip as quickly as possible.
“I have a lot of soldiers over there and I need to get back to them,” Col. Alian was quoted as saying by Israel’s Ynet news portal.
Israel’s ground war in Gaza began last Thursday night, a day after a squad of 13 Hamas terrorists were killed while emerging from a terror tunnel near a kibbutz in southern Israel. By mid-day Sunday, at least 36 such tunnels had been destroyed, and over 130 terrorist gunmen had been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.
At press time, Israel had released for publication the names of five soldiers killed during the operation. Over 50 soldiers have been wounded, seven of them seriously.
Casualties on the Palestinian side have also mounted as Hamas continues to deliberately place the civilian population in harm’s way. The Israeli army on Sunday announced that it was setting up a field hospital on the northern Gaza border in order to treat wounded Palestinians. The facility will be equipped with recovery and birthing rooms, in addition to trauma units.