Hamas, founded in 1987 by Ahmad Yassin, is a foreign terrorist group that was formed during the first intifada against Israel. Yassin, a radical Sunni spiritual leader, created Hamas during the unrest in Gaza to emphasize the Islamist aims of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Today, the Sunni extremist group continues to lob rockets at civilian targets from across the border, uses children as human shields, and supports the complete annihilation of Israel. In fact, Hamas recently found itself in the headlines after 50 of its members were killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during demonstrations in Gaza, according to CNN.
IDF Major Amichai Chikli intimately understands what it’s like to go head-to-head with the militant Sunni-Islamists.
Chikli served in the IDF for eight years, including time as a member of special forces in a guerilla reconnaissance unit. During his time in the unit, Hamas was just beginning to build tunnels to transport their jihadists and weapons into Israel.
Intelligence from the Israel Security Agency (Shabak) discovered that Hamas had what they suspected was a tunnel in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood, a major sanctuary for the terrorist group.
“It was around Hanukkah,” Chikli said. “Shabak was watching Hamas. They saw them taking bags of sand out of a chicken coop and putting them into a truck. Of course, that raised suspicion.”
Chikli was tasked with leading his small platoon along with another to destroy the tunnel.
“We crossed the fence into Shuja’iyya,” he said. “Thermal imaging from the drone up above told us that there were people next to the chicken coop and that they were awake and alert, so we moved slowly. My mission was to surround the perimeter of chicken coop as the other platoon went inside to investigate things further.”
Chikli continued, sharing what he heard over his radio as the platoon moved in: “When they reached the first chicken coop, they didn’t find anything but sleeping chickens, so they continued to move forward.”
The next chicken coop was anything but a home for feathery birds. “The second chicken coop was empty,” Chikli recalled. “Before the platoon went in, they sent in a dog and his handler to check for explosives.” The handler wasn’t certain that a tunnel was in the coop, though.
There were a series of barriers obstructing his view. “He didn’t see anything, so we sent in the platoon. They went inside and moved around the panels to see better. Then they saw a camera with a small light. Over my radio, I could hear the platoon commander ordering everyone to get out of the chicken coop.”
But it was too late. Two seconds later, there was a massive explosion.
“It was raining iron, stones, and debris,” Chikli said. “I thought I was going to die because I’d been hit with a piece of iron falling from the sky. You couldn’t hear anything.”
Chikli expected that the entire platoon was dead, but luckily he was wrong.
“The bomb that went off wasn’t designed to bring down a building; it was the type that a terrorist would use to destroy an armored vehicle, not infantry. Their weapons had been ripped from their hands, their helmets and night vision were gone, but they weren’t dead,” Chikli said.
However, they were still in a hostile area, so there wasn’t time to take in the moment of what had just happened.
“The platoon immediately gathered. We wanted to make sure that all was okay. It took about 10 minutes to find out where everyone was. All were accounted for except the handler and the dog. Our new mission was to find them and quickly. After the commander gave us our new order, you could hear massive gunfire. It was Hamas,” Chikli recounted.
“Three Hamas militants were coming out of a tunnel and started to shoot at us. They were sure that the entire company was wounded on the floor, so they expected us to be easy to kill. Finding the handler and the dog would have to wait.”
The platoons took cover behind a wall that was part of the chicken coop but hadn’t been turned to rubble in the explosion. Only one person was badly injured, according to Chikli.
“Our radioman of the commander of the unit received two bullets to his weapon. It exploded, hit his face and opened it,” he said. That presented a new challenge for Chikli and his men. They needed to get their brother-in-arms medical attention for his severe injury and still take out the terrorists in the process. “About five minutes into the battle, all of the militants were dead.”
With the platoon mostly accounted for and the immediate threat neutralized, the mission returned to finding the handler and the dog. “We found them lying on the ground,” Chikli said. “I checked the pulse of the handler. He was dead. That’s what it’s like to fight Hamas.”
Chikli now serves in the reserves of the IDF and as a teacher at an Israeli academy for military officers. To this day, he considers Hamas an evil organization due to the constant threat from their attacks on Israelis.
“They are blinded by hatred,” he said. “Blinded.”