Israeli police woman on frontline on ‘bloody Saturday’
Major Moran Etedgi and her two young children woke up in her home in Ofakim, a city in southern Israel, on Saturday, 7 October, to the sounds of sirens and quickly rushed down to their protected shelter to avoid rocket fire. Little did this mother of two consider how the day would end – with her as a hero, having faced terrorists in the line of fire, saving many lives in their small town.
Etedgi, who is in charge of operations at the Aror police station in the Negev, said, “After a few minutes, the alarms were heard again and again and again, and at this point, I understood something unusual was happening. I realised that the rockets being launched were far in excess of what we were accustomed to.”
She got word that there were dead and injured in the predominantly Bedouin Aror community, and began giving instructions to strengthen the station and alert off duty officers that they were under terrorist attack.
Then, hearing on the Ofakim police walkie talkie about various encounters with terrorists in her city, she said, “I made an instinctive decision to put on my uniform to protect myself and go out. On my way, I picked up another police officer from my station, and we went to the scene.”
She arrived to find that three police officers had already been murdered by terrorists and many others injured. She was told that there were four terrorists in a house with civilian hostages. Shocked, she took command and within seconds, the terrorists were firing at her with a barrage of automatic weapons that included grenades and rocket-propelled grenades.
During what felt like a never-ending battle, another two officers were injured and rescued under fire before things went quiet for a while. At this point, the area’s senior commander arrived and Etedgi briefed him about what was happening.
She was then called to go to another house nearby, the home of one of the officer’s friends, in which there were three terrorists. She became aware that the terrorists were hiding in the backyard of a house.
“During this chaos and in the middle of a battle, I had to stop and call my children to tell them that I loved them and that their mom was taking care of herself. We initially surrounded the house from two directions, and saw a body lying lifeless through a hole in the window.”
They managed to get some of the family members out of the house to safety before Etedgi gave instruction to fire and try and draw out the terrorists hiding and waiting to surprise them.
“The incendiary fire helped. The terrorists started shooting in our direction. We fired a second time and were hit by fire in which an officer was injured. The grenade that the terrorists launched at us injured several more police officers,” Etedgi said.
“A grenade fragment hit me in the face, but I knew that I must keep calm and I gave a directive to retreat and reorganise.”
Etedgi called for the help of a helicopter to get a better picture of the situation, and to make sure that all civilians in the vicinity stayed inside their homes. Etedgi and her team circled the house, as about 50 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers arrived to help, and she did all she could to ensure they worked with her and the police. “Command and control was always my first thought and action items, even under fire,” she said. “I screamed orders so that everyone heard the instructions clearly.” During their firefight, she and her team hit two terrorists.
“Another officer was on the roof and started shouting at the last terrorist to surrender. He wouldn’t, and after a short confrontation, the terrorist became visible, and I give instructions to shoot him.”
Once they were able to send their bomb squad into the home, they discovered “several booby traps and other means to kill us”, she said.
Once she was able to, she went back to the previous scene under attack. “At this point, I assumed command of the entire city of Ofakim under the direction of the commander of the area. Together with other forces, we responded to dozens of events that happened throughout the city in what can only be described as a bloody Saturday,” she said.
“I went to do a situation assessment with the mayor and the commander of the IDF officer’s school, and we divided the city into combat and reaction sectors.
“Starting Saturday, 7 October, from about 07:30, I worked at the battles of Ofakim until Tuesday, 10 October, when I returned to my police station. These were certainly the longest days of my life.”
Etedgi was one of the valiant southern Israeli police members who were the first to receive calls from terrified residents in kibbutzim and small communities which came under brutal attack by Hamas terrorists. They responded as quickly and forcefully as they possibly could with the limited firepower they had at the time, and many paid with their lives. Hamas murdered at least 58 police officers – and that number is expected to rise. Brave women and men fought with all their might to eliminate the enormous threat.
As the days go on and we learn more details about that horrific day when Israeli civilians were murdered, tortured, raped, and kidnapped in the most barbaric and depraved way, we’re also starting to hear the stories of those like Etedgi, who were first on site. They were the first responders alongside local community security personnel who witnessed the carnage and fought it with all their might.
In Israel’s war with Hamas, the police are on the frontlines not only of classic policing but dealing with a daily existential terror threat.
Many police officers have been called up for reserve duty in the army. It’s the women of the Israeli police that are on the frontline of protection in our cities and communities across the country as most of their male counterparts move from cities and communities to the borders.