GAZA: Veteran officer Tzvi Koretzki has had a role in many operations against Palestinian militants in the past 25 years, but believes Israel’s fight against Hamas in Gaza will be “a harder war.”
Milling around the 47-year-old reservist lieutenant-colonel are dozens of young conscripts — many half his age, with no previous experience of combat.
On the frontier between Israel and Gaza the cannons of their artillery regiment now fire day and night, at unseen targets beyond a curtain of trees hemming the perimeter. Koretzki was recalled to his regiment on Oct. 7.
He says it’s the first time Israel has been serious about defeating Hamas. But “it’s a harder war than we had in the past,” he adds.
“It’s the sixth or seventh time I’m deploying my guns here firing on Gaza,” he says, squinting under the brim of a khaki bucket hat.
“I hope it will be the last time.”
After a month of deployment, the young soldiers around him don’t complain, he says. They don’t ask “How long is it going to take? When is it going to be over?“
“They’re not the type of questions that we see this time. I think it makes sense after what we experienced,” he adds.
“I think the mission is so clear this time that you don’t need to explain too much.”
Thinking too far ahead “can lower morale,” says 21-year-old corporal Navad. “It’s hard for everybody, it scares us, there is stress but we are strong,” says the Franco Israeli.
Under the men’s boots the earth has been churned by heavy machinery. On the sunbeat patch of land the Israeli army has stationed howitzer cannons with a range of several kilometers. “We are on alert all the time, night and day,” says Navad. “We get coordinates as soon as we need to fire, and we fire on terrorist targets no matter the time.”
“You don’t see the target, so either you have a forward observer that is telling you what are the coordinates of the target, or you are acquiring the coordinates yourself with the (drone) or with a radar,” says Koretzki.
The Israeli army says it is using artillery, far from the front line, to support the advance of infantry and armored units encircling northern Gaza.