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Lifesaving IDF’s women’s unit  – true ‘guardian angels’

IDF Gaon unit (Photo courtesy)

Since around 2006, the IDF came to realize that most of its fighting would be urban-based. This scenario has been met with an increased military capability made possible through a network-based war machine that connects the military combat commander on the ground with a greater intelligence unit, allowing it to call in attacks from both the air and sea to deal with military threats.

In the most recent battles in the Gaza Strip, reservists from the IDF’s Sky Rider drone unit, which has many women serving alongside their male counterparts, acted as virtual “guardian angels.” By operating drones, the unit gave the late Lt.-Col. Tomer Grinberg, commander of the Golani’s 13th Battalion, an “eye in the sky.” This allowed him to call in air and sea support that wiped out opposing forces mere minutes after they were identified.

When Grinberg radioed for assistance during a major urban battle in the northern Strip, four young female soldiers serving in the IDF's drone unit immediately responded. For two hours guided the battalion, protecting it from enemy fire. The Sky Rider unit uses Skylark UAVs to provide a real-time picture of the situation on the ground. Then, depending on the situation, they can utilize combat helicopters or artillery or commit additional troops.

As Hamas terrorists tried to ambush the battalion’s armored personnel carriers with anti-tank weapons and RPGs, the four young members of Team Gaon managed to inform the Golani troops as to the location of the opposing fire, resulting in the terrorists falling back in disarray. Meanwhile, the Israeli troops managed to emerge from the battle with no serious injuries. Team Gaon proved to be the eyes and shields of the combat troops.

The need for trained combatants to counter the Palestinian terror threat is so great that reservists are being called up and committed to the fiercest battles, regardless of gender, even though many rabbis in Israel still oppose the use of women in combat units.

Staff Sergeant R., a member of the team, recounts her surprise at how easily she was assigned to enter battle, saying: “It was obvious to me that we would be called up, but still the attitude toward female soldiers in this war has surprised me.”

The 23-year-old soldier told Israel Today that following the Oct. 7 attack, she immediately contacted her unit, requesting to be drafted into reserve duty. Two days later, she was already down south. “I was surprised they took us south and that some of the female combat soldiers entered the Gaza Strip,” she said.

“We thought at first, they would only bring in male teams, but the women have been here throughout this war. And the fact that we were able to do the job in the best way possible goes to show that we can do anything.”

Prior to the present war, women were assigned to intelligence work at the Gaza border. Many were involved in reporting back the threats posed by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Strip. Women soldiers were also assigned to border security units, and unfortunately many were killed or taken hostage during Hamas' brutal attack on Oct. 7. At the same time, a female tank crew that was guarding the southern border was called to defend Kibbutz Holit.

Breaching the kibbutz gate, which was being held by terrorists, the first female tank crews in Israeli - and probably world - history to engage in combat, formed the initial response of the IDF, which was caught with its pants down on that Simchat Torah morning on Shabbat. These women eliminated over 50 terrorists during 17 hours of combat.

Ultimately three tanks were employed, each with all female crews. To reach the battle zone from their base, they had to drive their tanks down public highways, which they did successfully. They were crucial in stopping the influx of terrorists, which would have spread out even further south. The soldiers initially stopped them at the border fence, shooting them out of trees and on the ground, killing scores of terrorists, including antitank crews and groups manning RPGs. Occasionally they managed to run them over with the tanks.

Women are also being used in Gaza in K-9 units called “Oketz,” Hebrew for “sting,” with trained dogs that enter Hamas tunnels and sniff out booby traps, bombs and other weapons, as well as locating terrorist hideouts and ambushes.

These highly-trained canines have uncovered bombs being hidden by Hamas operatives in hospitals throughout the Gaza Strip, including the Turkish, Rantisi and Shifa Hospitals. Generally, Oketz has found Hamas weapons stashed in various places, from medical machines to medicine cabinets and patients’ beds.

Two-thirds of the personnel in the IDF's Home Front Command’s Rescue and Training Brigade are women.

“Currently within the strip, on behalf of the Home Front Command, 40% are women, sharing the mission responsibilities with the men beside them,” the commander of the brigade explained.

The fighters joined the combat teams and operated together in the area of the Al-Shati refugee camp – one of Hamas’ central strongholds in the Gaza Strip.

As rabbis and politicians squabble over the role of women in the Israel Defense Forces, the first female commander of the IDF’s Sky Riders, Lt.-Col. Reut Rettig-Weiss, took command of the Artillery Corps’ elite Sky Riders Unit last July.

Rettig-Weiss is now leading the unit to greater heights, having acquired two new types of drones designed to provide longer flight times and higher-quality intelligence-gathering capabilities.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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