Sergeant Maor Elbaz is a combat soldier aboard the ‘Dabur’ (Hornet) naval boat, which patrols along the coast of the Gaza Strip. Dabur patrol boats have been used by the IDF since the 70s to counter maritime terrorism. Sgt. Elbaz’s mission is to enforce the naval blockade on Gaza, but aside from his military obligations, he has a more personal reason for doing his job: Sgt. Elbaz and his family live in Ashdod, where numerous rockets have in the past hit very near home.
Although three years have passed since Operation Cast Lead, everyone at the Ashdod naval base remembers it vividly. The combat soldiers operate each day to enforce the maritime blockade imposed upon Gaza since January 3, 2009. The blockade is a legal security measure taken by the IDF to prevent the entry of vessels into ports controlled by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations which historically have utilized the ports to illegally smuggle arms.
Sgt. Elbaz’s task is essential to Israel’s security. In 2009 for example, Israeli navy forces boarded the Francop, a ship from Iran carrying 500 tons of illegal weapons such as guns, missiles and rockets. The armaments were hidden under polythene bags for illegal transfer to the Hezbollah terrorist group operating out of Lebanon.
For Elbaz, it’s not just a mission. “I was living in Ashdod at the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, and I remember every rocket that hit the city. I went outside with my little brother to buy him a birthday present, when a rocket landed just 100 meters from us.”
At sea, they helplessly watch the stream of rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel. “When I began my service here, I suddenly understood the close connection between what we do here, and what is happening at my home,” he said, and added:
“From here, you can see both Gaza and Ashkelon, without even turning your head. When you get closer to the coast, the border appears, and you can recognize the silhouettes of Gazans alongside those of our soldiers. The threat of rocket fire on southern communities of the country ensues and has even increased.”
In February of this year, one rocket hit southern Israeli each day on average. “When a rocket is fired at Ashdod or Ashkelon from Gaza, There is nothing I can do while out at sea. I can only make sure that there were no injuries and that everyone is okay.” said Sgt. Elbaz. “It is not always easy to perform my military duties when I worry about both my family and my house–but it is my job.”
Since the beginning of this year, 64 rockets emanating from Gaza has been fired at Israeli civilian population–in addition to the 620 fired in 2011. Hamas aims directly at innocent Israeli citizens, terrorizing nearly a million civilians. The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians or IDF soldiers, and will operate against anyone who uses terror against the State of Israel.