Israeli reservist: I chose to fight but don't know if I'll come back alive


Yakir doesn't know when he'll be able to speak to his boyfriend again once his Israeli army unit goes into the Gaza Strip to fight Hamas.

Yakir doesn't know when he'll be able to speak to his boyfriend again once his Israeli army unit goes into the Gaza Strip to fight Hamas.


Israeli reservist I chose to fight but don't know if I'll come back alive

"I haven't told my family I am going inside Gaza. I don't want them to be worried. Only my boyfriend knows I'll be inside."


"I don't know what kind of mission I'm going to get, or if I will even come back alive."


The 33-year-old was speaking to me hours before the mission was due to start, and he said he had permission from his superiors to speak to the BBC.


In his interview, he said he felt Israel was given no option after the attacks of 7 October but to go into Gaza to destroy Hamas.


"If they didn't fear to enter Israel, we mustn't fear to go into Gaza, to make sure they will never do again what they did a month ago to innocent people, babies and children."


Yakir was called up along with hundreds and thousands of reservists, immediately after the attack in which 1,200 people were killed and some 240 taken hostage.


On the day of the attack, he and his boyfriend were asleep in their apartment when they were suddenly woken by red alerts on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Home Front Command app, which warns of incoming rocket attacks.


"I live in Ramat Gan, next to Tel Aviv. We're used to alarms. I just went back to sleep," he recalls.


"But a little while later, my boyfriend shook me to tell me that terrorists had entered Kibbutz Be'eri and kidnapped 20 people… It was only a little part of what was happening."


"I understood how big it was. You knew it before the government said it. I got my bag ready, and said, 'Oh My God, I am now saying goodbye to my normal life.'"


Yakir didn't want to be a soldier, he tells me. He didn't enjoy the army because he didn't like being ordered to do things.


Military service is compulsory in Israel and like all conscripted men, he served three years until the age of 21. He remains eligible for reserve duty until he is 40.


Before 7 October, he wanted to go to the doctor to ask them to say that he was not fit to be a reservist on medical grounds.


Immediately after the Hamas attack, Israel launched its offensive with the declared aim of destroying the group. The war has so far killed more than 11,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, including more than 4,500 children.


I ask him what he thought of the civilian casualties. Yakir avoids answering my question directly, except to say that the IDF gives prior warning to evacuate civilians before striking.


But in a war, he says, civilian deaths are unavoidable. "You have to remember, we didn't start this war."


Instead of waiting to be called up, he put himself forward for active duty and tells me that he is fighting to live in a world in which Hamas - which Israel, the UK and other countries consider a terrorist organisation - no longer exists.


"But it was not easy, to leave what seemed like a perfect life for me, until that morning of 7 October."


While he was waiting to be deployed, he wanted to make the most of his "normal life" with his boyfriend. They went to the familiar places that they enjoyed visiting before 7 October.


"There's a lake in Ramat Gan national park. I went there with my boyfriend and some other friends. I just wanted to look at the dusk. I felt that it was the last time I was having a normal life before I was going to the army. I was sitting there, looking at the water, and quietly saying goodbye."


Yakir was first deployed in the southern town of Sderot. He spent two weeks patrolling the city's streets. There were reports of Hamas gunmen still at large, and he saw some gunmen being captured.


"I didn't sleep a lot. Fear was waking me up. I was missing my family. I was tired, hungry."


We spoke as Yakir was preparing to enter Gaza, on foot and after nightfall. He didn't know how long his deployment would be.


"Inside Gaza, we won't have any cell phones. The enemy can track them and strike with missiles," he said.


During a recent operation on the Gaza border, Yakir says, the whole unit had only one phone between them - a secure military phone - which he was sometimes able to use to send a short message to his boyfriend to say he was ok. His boyfriend then passed those messages on to his family.


But this time he thinks it might not be so easy to stay in touch.


Yakir just wants to believe that the war will be over quickly, or else that he will be replaced by another soldier, so that he can go back home.


The lives of all Israelis have changed forever, Yakir tells me, and he is driven by a sense of unity that he tells me everyone in Israel feels at the moment. "Feeling unsafe is our national trauma now."


Before the war, the country was deeply divided over the government's controversial judicial overhaul plans, which led to months of protests.


"What happened shocked the country so much that we decided we didn't want to fight with each other anymore," Yakir says. "The 7th of October reunited us. Orthodox and non-Orthodox, right wing and left wing, we're one nation today."


As we end our call, Yakir tells me that he is very afraid.


"I know terrorists can pop up from tunnels, shoot at us and go back into the tunnels."


"Already one officer of my unit has been killed. They can shoot rockets at us, and there are no alerts in Gaza."



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Israeli reservist: I chose to fight but don't know if I'll come back alive
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