Israeli commander survives for seven hours in the center of a fierce gun fight against Hamas

I stopped worrying about myself, desperate to save the people running for their lives. No rules of the road existed anymore. People drove anywhere to save themselves. Whichever direction the terrorists shot; people fled the opposite way.

  • 7 months ago
  • November 3, 2023
8 min read
Israeli Army Reserve Commander Yossi Tubur survived a Hamas attack in a desolate area for seven hours. He is now back on the battlefield. Israeli Army Reserve Commander Yossi Tubur survived a Hamas attack in a desolate area for seven hours. He is now back on the battlefield. | Photo courtesy Yossi Tubur
Interview Subject
Lieutenant Colonel Yossi Tubur is a reservist in the Israeli Army. He was called to duty when Hamas initiated their surprise attack on the southern cities near the Gaza border, and found himself in a fierce gun battle. Yossi was hit by a bullet while he was saving others’ lives on the road as he drove to reach his unit. He hid under a bush for seven hours before he was rescued by his unit and taken to a hospital for treatment.
Background Information
The surprise attack by the terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip caused many casualties in the southern part of Israel. As we write, more than 1,500 civilians have been killed including children, mothers, and older people. Hamas has taken more than 200 civilians including foreign nationals as hostages in Gaza. Israel has since bombed Gaza with missiles and initiated a ground invasion.

SDEROT, Israel ꟷ On October 7, 2023, during the Israeli holiday of Shabbat, my country saw the worst terror attack since the Holocaust. As a soldier and reservist in the Israeli Army, I must be ready when duty calls and that call came.

On that fateful day, I was on holiday at my home in Tel Aviv celebrating my daughter’s birthday. When my unit called upon me to report for duty, I put on my uniform and my gun. As I told my family the news, my youngest daughter became very sad. She didn’t want her daddy to leave during Shabbat when we were supposed to be spending time together as a family.

On that day, when Israeli citizens gather for rest and peace, terrorists invaded and attacked the southern part of the country. The Kibbutz they destroyed were beautiful places along the Gaza border full of people, young and old, who embraced love for humanity.

Read more stories out of the conflict.

Soldier finds himself driving through the middle of a war zone

I made my way to my unit posted in Sderot, close to the Gaza border. Seeing rockets fired from Gaza is nothing new for Israelis, especially military personnel. We live with safe rooms in our homes and the blaring alerts of sirens telling us to seek shelter. Yet, we could never prepare for the attack that day. While the Iron Dome destroys thousands of rockets, seeing terrorists on our doorsteps shocked everyone.

As I traveled to Sderot, the updates flooded my intercom from mine and from other units. Unlock a typical rocket attack from Gaza, it became clear to me, the invasion led to an unprecedented loss of life. Additional Israeli citizens were taken hostage.

With the terrorists in the Kibbutz for hours, I knew I faced a scary situation unfolding. As I neared Sderot on the open roads surrounded only by fields, eight terrorists came out of the bush and began shooting at me. The only other cars on the road outside of mine were some distance away but the terrorists shot at all of us. I saw at least three cars with families inside, already dead.

I stopped worrying about myself, desperate to save the people running for their lives. No rules of the road existed anymore. People drove anywhere to save themselves. Whichever direction the terrorists shot; people fled the opposite way. Everyone seemed to be zigzagging everywhere. While the cars remained long distances apart, the chaos made it challenging to maneuver. I felt a strong urge to help people. I couldn’t do anything for those already dead, but I wanted to save the living. We sacrificed enough already.

Eight Hamas terrorists close in and Israeli soldier runs for his life

I made a decision: when the terrorists began firing on civilian cars, I shot back at them to give the Israelis the chance to escape. Three cars were able to pass by doing this. I don’t know what happened after they passed me; terrorists were everywhere. I can only hope they survived.

By this time, the terrorists captured three Kibbutz and many roads leading to the south were held by Hamas. I did everything in my power to help my people and my nation escape the danger. Then, my car broke down. When the tires blew out, I traveled another 100 meters before it stopped completely. For the first time, I really feared being killed.

The terrorists relentlessly shot at me, and I fired back. Once the civilian cars passed, I was the only one left so Hamas attacked me directly. I had no option but to leap out and run. I am 44 years old and healthy, but when you are running to save your own life on an empty road with gunfire raining down on you, you tend to lose your pace.

I had my gun but no armor. They had M16s, Kalashnikovs, and other weapons. How could I manage eight terrorists alone? They saw my military uniform and as I shot back at them, they appeared to calm down; at least, that is what I wanted to believe. I needed to find a place to hide and keep my moral up. As my mind spun, suddenly, a bullet hit my leg.

All my strength drained away and I became desperate for hiding place. Still being hunted, I dove into a bush where I stayed hidden for seven hours. The pain and bleeding from my leg made me question, “What did I do to deserve this?”

Hiding in a bush in a combat zone, I expected to die

As I stayed hidden in the bush, I removed my shirt and tied it around my leg to stop the bleeding. If I lost too much blood, I knew I would die. I began sending text messages to my colleagues in the Army, providing my exact location and an update on my injury, asking for rescue. I believe my phone saved my life. During that time, I heard voices in Arabic shouting as gun fire rang out. I’m sure if they found me, they would have taken me prisoner.

Time went on and the messages I sent to the Israeli military units went unanswered. Nearly all of them remained engaged in the Kibbutz and helping victims. I prayed they would find me. While I did not feel afraid of being tortured by Hamas or taking a bullet, I worried I would never see my children again. Regardless of the courage I felt in the face of this enemy, I might as well have had a knee down thinking about my family.

I understood that in the middle of a combat zone, no one had time to worry about me as a single person, so I stayed quiet underneath the bush. I readied myself for this to be my end; that I would die in the line of duty. I felt good having saved some lives, and I let go of fear knowing my family would be proud of me.

Saved by my comrades, they rushed me to the hospital

Eventually I contacted one of my units and began to give them information on the situation. As the unit made their way toward me, I warned them about the Hamas vehicles in the area. The Hamas terrorists had yellow lights on their cars – critical information to help Israeli forces recognize them and stop further damage.

Another hour passed and an Israeli unit arrived. As I hid in the bush between the Israeli soldiers and the Hamas terrorists, they began shooting at each other. On both sides of me, an intense fight ensued, and I knew any of their bullets could strike me. I stayed down, even after the immediate fight came to end, worried terrorists in the area would recognize me. In total, the firefight lasted about three hours. More and more terrorists came; and additional Israeli forces arrived to defend the region.

Over the entire seven hours I hid in the bush, I witnessed the battle and saw many terrorists fall dead on the ground. The gunshots seemed never ending. In Israel we are used to war, but hiding in the middle of a gunfight for hours was something new entirely.

Finally, the Israeli soldiers from my unit approached and rescued me. They took me to a hospital, and I wasn’t sure if I had been shot or not. I could not move my aching shoulder and had no strength in one arm and one leg. Once we arrived at the hospital, I heard news about the Supernova music festival. Up to that point, I only knew of the rocket attack and that some Hamas men had entered the villages.  

Seeking to kill is not our nature; but we will respond

As a reservist in the Israeli Army, when a call comes in you report for duty. Your superior says, “There is an emergency. Come to the unit,” and you go. You ask no questions. I could not have known the severity of the attacks taking place in Israel, nor understand the bigger picture of the events unfolding. Still, even now, I am trying to process the scale of what happened here.

After three days in the hospital, it was suggested I stay home and rest, but I insisted on returning to my unit. As the unit commander, I knew my readiness to fight would help their morale. [As of this interview] I am serving in Northeastern Israel. The pain I endured is nothing compared to those who lost loved ones during those horrible hours of October 7, 2023.

Most of the battles we fought in the past happened along borders. They were battles we expected in advance. This surprise attack by Hamas caught us unprepared; but we relied on our training to respond. In an emergency, our training teaches us to fight, not freeze. Our first action came in defense, but now we will pivot to offense through a ground invasion. We will not stop.

When somebody hits us, Israel responds. We come together as a people and fight for our nation. I have seen documents myself that outline why Hamas kills babies – because they will become Israeli soldiers; why they kill women – because they will give birth to soldiers; why they kill old men – because they were once a soldier. They just want to kill.

That is not our nature in Israel. Hamas planned and executed a surprise attack, exacting as much damage as possible. Now our response will be heard by them.

Translation Disclaimer

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