And as the prospect of wider conflict looms he had this warning for the state’s enemies – “We are united. Hamas must be destroyed.”
Itai has fought in wars before. But as he prepares for action with his reservist comrades, he reveals there is something different in the mindset of Israel veterans today.
“We are all sad, we are all angry but we are all also full of vengeance and this is a new feeling,” he said.
The 40-year-old veteran of the 2006 war with Lebanon and Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank immediately signed up for duty on that fateful Saturday, one month ago. The 360,000 reservists who have been called up to deal with the crisis know it could be several months before they see their families again.
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He said: “Something broke in Israel after October 7. People from the right and left have come together here. Our political differences have gone. We know that what has been can never be again.
“Hamas must be destroyed. We have seen Hamas for what it is. We now know that all those threats were not rhetoric. We have seen that Hamas’s claims that it only wants to control Gaza, improve its economy and act in the best interest of its people, are false.”
Itai has two brothers fighting in the conflict. One, 34, is with him in the north and the second, 37, is fighting in Gaza. He asked for neither to be named for security reasons.
Itai’s paratrooper brigade is now massed on Lebanon’s border, presenting a wall of steel against Hezbollah. “Strategically, Hezbollah is seen as a tougher challenge than Hamas,” said Itai. “It has more fire power and has declared it wants to take over Israel and reclaim lands.”
Operation Iron Swords has garnered much controversy for its goal of eradicating Hamas at almost any cost, including civilian casualties.
According to Palestine’s Ministry of Health more than 10,000 Palestinians have died so far.
Itai said: “Everything is being done as carefully as possible. We don’t want to deliberately kill civilians. If that had been our plan, we’d have rolled in on October 8. Instead, we waited two weeks, dropping leaflets and giving civilians an opportunity to escape. But so our enemies won’t try October 7 again, we need to do things in Gaza we have never done before.
“We need to complete the mission, even if there is collateral damage.”
There is another difference since October 7, admits Itai: “I cannot express the anger and isolation we feel. We always suspected large parts of the West weren’t with us, no matter how many Jewish babies get slaughtered, or how many women are raped.
“The silver lining about the pro-Palestinian protests is that it has made everyone put their cards on the table.”
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