Israeli Sniper's Anguished Look Into Crosshairs

Order To Shoot Palestinan Suspect — and Return to Normalcy

All Along the Watchtower: An IDF sniper keeps watch over the town of Bethlehem.
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All Along the Watchtower: An IDF sniper keeps watch over the town of Bethlehem.

By Gershon Morris

Published March 17, 2014, issue of March 21, 2014.

(page 4 of 6)

In the dark cold of morning, we pack up the vehicle with the equipment and the sniper rifles. The other sniper and I face paint it up. I am nervous. I guess I shouldn’t be, I’m not the one who’s about to lose a leg.

The four of us, plus Major W himself, along with his radio man, go and check out the spot where we plan to shoot from today. It passes inspection in the predawn twilight, and we head back to the vehicle to wait for the call that Barry has been spotted. After a while, the call comes. We each put a camo net in our pockets. I take off my fleece, so I won’t overheat while walking, but I put a heat packet in my left pocket to make sure I can keep my shooting fingers warm and sensitive.

We cover our heads and shoulders with the nets, and move out. The lieutenant and spotter lead, and the other sniper and I follow 20 meters behind. We walk along the berm protecting the path from Gaza, but sometimes there are gaps. Then we cross in pairs, smushed against each other and with guns hidden by the profile of our bodies, to reduce noticeable protrusions from the chunk of mass we appear to be from afar. Moving slowly, we clutch the long M24 sniper rifles close to our sides as we step through the mud.

We reach the gap where we are to cross from the path toward the fence. Nets on our heads and guns tucked into our bodies, we advance slowly, one by one, toward where the lookout girls report Barry is sitting. I try to stay low. I avoid making sudden movements and minimize negative space in my body. I lower my face, the most recognizable part of the body, but then remember that I can look up, because my face is covered by the net.

We arrive at the beginning of the incline leading to where the spot is. The spotter and lieutenant go up to scan for Barry; the other sniper and I prepare. Unscrew the covers on the dial of the gun, put in earplugs, take off helmet. (Snipers shoot without a helmet – it gets in the way and puts too much strain on the neck to keep the head raised for a long period of time, as is necessary in shooting position.) We try to put mud on the backs of our hands to darken them, but it’s a bit too dry and doesn’t really stick. I clean my trigger finger with a leaf. The girls say Barry is 220 meters away. The two of us raise two clicks on our scopes.

Leaving our M4s, we carefully belly crawl with the sniper rifles up to the spot. The spotter points me in the direction of the target and I see him, a startling 200 meters away, gazing in our direction, toward Israel. We extend the nets to cover the sight of the gun. It helps that the sun is behind us, in his eyes.

Barry is sitting, scanning the terrain, wearing his usual blue jacket with white on the chest. The spotter tells us to raise three clicks, but we later bring it back down to two. We take one click left for the side wind.

The lieutenant is on the secure phone with the deputy battalion commander, and meanwhile the spotter keeps telling us things like “only shoot if it’s 100 percent,” and “confirm that you guys understand the shot is to the foot only.”

We wait, crosshairs on the target. A few times Barry stands up, but as the spotter begins the count, he sits back down. We don’t have a clear shot at his foot unless he stands. If we shoot while he is sitting, the bullet could hit his thigh and kill him, so we wait for him to stand again. My heart pounds. Unlike the last mission, there is time to think.

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