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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Inside Israel’s Palmachim Airbase as troops prepare for potential Gaza operations against Hamas

As Israel prepares for the next phase of its war with Hamas, Israel’s Palmachim Airbase, a crucial operational point housing two squadrons of Black Hawk helicopters, is on high alert, readying for potential missions targeting Hamas and possibly leading ground operations into Gaza.

In a recent CBS News visit to the airbase, the personnel, whose identities remain concealed for security reasons, showed how they are preparing for a potential ground operation into Gaza, two weeks into the war sparked by Hamas’ deadly terror attack.

“Having a terror organization on our fence, letting them hold the trigger to launch a deadly attack on us, this is a situation that no democracy can live with,” one major said.

The Black Hawks, versatile in both assault and medical evacuation roles, stand ready for a range of missions, from inserting commandos into hostile territory to extracting the wounded. “And those are stretchers,” the major said during the walkthrough.

The personnel here, many of whom have families and children of their own, live with the reality of sudden deployment.

“My oldest is 6 and a half years old. Like [he] asked me, ‘Why do you have to go?’ I just told him ‘Our country’s under attack, I have to go,'” the major said.

In Israel, officials say Hamas’ attack killed about 1,400 people and wounded 3,500 others. The U.S. State Department says the death toll includes 32 Americans, and 10 U.S. citizens remain unaccounted for.

Israel continued to strike numerous Hamas targetswithin the Gaza Strip on Friday. At the same time, Israel commenced the evacuation of a town situated along its northern frontier adjacent to Lebanon. This area has witnessed a rise in cross-border hostilities with Hezbollah, another significant group in the region supported by Iran.

But as Israel prepares for what might be a dangerous new phase in its defense, the definition of victory remains focused on the homefront. Both the major and a staff sergeant said that true victory is a safe civilian population.

“War, it’s not an easy thing. War means loss, and we will do all we can to protect our country, whatever it takes,” said the staff sergeant.

For the soldiers at Palmachim Airbase, success is about ensuring a future where their children “are going to go back to school without any rockets being fired at them.”

The operational stance against Hamas is clear for the soldiers, no matter their rank. Their mission is the total elimination of the group’s capabilities.

“I won’t talk about these missions and plans, but we are gonna kill Hamas and we’re gonna rebuild all the places they ruined,” the major said.

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