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Behind the Gaza Attacks Release date 13.11.2018
The IAF has operated throughout the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours in response to the terrorist attack led by terrorist organizations. From pilots, through technicians and to Air Defense Division combatants – meet the people behind the attacks
Illy Pe'ery, Noa Rokni & Michal Ben-Ari

Rocket salvos towards Israel, dozens of rockets intercepted by the Air Defense Division and hundreds of targets hit deep in the Gaza Strip using fighter jets, attack helicopters, aircraft and tanks: over 170 Hamas and PIJ targets have been attacked in Gaza while service members in IAF airbases work towards arming the aircraft and allowing them to take off on attack sorties.

Archive Photo | Graphic design: Shani Solomon

From 0 to 100
One of the IAF squadrons participating in the attacks is the 133rd ("Knights of the Twin Tail") Squadron, which operates the "Baz" (F-15) aircraft. "The 'Baz' is a twin-engined multi-mission fighter jet which is able to carry a large amount of munitions", said Maj. A', commander of the squadron's technical department. "The aircraft's original goal is performing long-range missions, but thanks to its massive firepower it is also relevant in the Gaza theatre".

As a result of the security situation in Israel, the squadron's alert time was shortened to a quarter of its original duration. The first scramble arrived shortly thereafter. "After our alert time was shortened, two aircraft were scrambled following the rocket salvo fired from Gaza in the afternoon", said Maj. A'. "The aircraft landed safely and we immediately began re-arming them in order to be prepared for any potential scenario. The squadron is used to going from 0 to 100 in just several seconds. We perform a wide range of missions at any hour of the day, and in most cases we handle situations from moment to moment. We are always prepared – both mentally and physically".

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As Maj. A' said, the squadron is characterized by quick transitions between various states. "As soon as the sirens blared, every member of the technical department ran to the aircraft and helped prepare them for the attack", he said. "During routine, we usually know about our missions in advance and so we have time to prepare. A scramble, however, isn't planned in advance, seeing as we don't always have all the details regarding the event".

Always Prepared
Ramon AFB's squadrons have been working intensely since the IDF Special Force combatants were extracted from the Gaza Strip two days ago (Sunday). "Flight in Gaza is significantly different to flight in other theatres: it is densely populated and there is no room for error", described Capt. S', a WSO (Weapon Systems Officer) at the 119th ("Bat") Squadron, which operates "Sufa" (F-16I) fighter jets. "We are doing everything we can in order to prevent damage to uninvolved persons". Lt. Col. (Res') G', a pilot at the 201st ("One") Squadron which operates "Sufa" (F-16I) aircraft, added: "The main challenge is ensuring that the operational order is carried out in a precise manner for the mission - with no mistakes. Only after focusing on the smallest details will we take off for the sortie".

Archive Photo | Graphic design: Shani Solomon

Several aircraft from the 119th Squadron took off during the night, some on reconnaissance sorties and some on strike sorties. "We are always prepared for transitions from routine to emergency and we were prepared for developments during the current situation. When the event began yesterday afternoon, the squadron management prepared us for what was about to happen", said Sgt. Shahaf Ashkenazi and Cpl. Yael Tamir, operational clerks at the squadron. "Any information meant for the squadrons goes through us – we are the liaison between the IAF HQ and the force's various airbases".

"In a moment the airbase's squadrons were scrambled and dozens of sorties took off one after the other", explained Capt. S'. "The entire base took part – the fighter jet and attack helicopter squadrons performed various missions, including attack, reconnaissance and photography. We participated in operational activity throughout the past 24 hours and will continue to operate as long as necessary".

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Lt. Col. (Res') G' elaborated: "We always strive for improvement in order to be prepared for any scenario, whether in the Gaza Strip or any other theatre".

"Fulfilling our destiny and defending southern Israel"
Over the past day, approximately 370 rockets were launched towards Israel's territory and "Iron Dome" combatants managed to intercept dozens. "We prepared thoroughly in light of the tension", elaborated Lt. Col. Nir  Talias, Commander of an "Iron Dome" Battalion. "We are fulfilling our destiny and defending southern Israel".

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"We were required to quickly transition to a state of combat while remaining vigilant and professional in face of our enemy. The Air Defense Division's combatants and combat service supporters have shown their abilities in command, control and composure during combat. We have a feeling of vocation and a great responsibility. We are prepared for the worst scenario possible and for any terrorist activity, both in defense and offense".