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 5 of 6)

Barry seems to notice something. He stares in our direction. The spotter tells the lieutenant not to move. Then, Barry stands up, and this time we are on. The spotter counts seven, four, two, esh. There are two cracks, and Barry stumbles to his right, running away. The spotter reports a hit, but my heart sinks as I see Barry moving on his feet. I throw off the net and we shift our bodies, tracking him with our sights. He seems to be limping, and the limp gets worse. People come to help him, one of them holding him up by the right arm, and it becomes clear that we got him.

The lookout girls confirm a hit. I pump a fist. We get back down to safe ground, all smiles. The sun shines, birds flitter over green fields — a good day in Gaza. We hear the siren of an ambulance . Major W calls the lieutenant, who gives a thumbs-up. Everyone can feel the pressure lift. We put on the nets and head back, satisfied with a mission accomplished.

Apparently all of the senior commanders had been in the lookout girls’ control room watching live and had been in radio contact with the lieutenant as we shot. Back on base, we watch the video. I think how crazy this is, that we are reviewing “game tape,” like professional athletes or something. Around base, we are now minor celebrities, soldiers who actually shot someone.

About a week later, we take down our prime target, and Barry’s boss, the Shamen. He was a clever one, always standing behind bushes, staying low. We must have tracked him through the sights for over five hours, spanning multiple days before finally getting a shot off. It is 10 times harder to shoot someone in the leg than to simply kill him. The leg is narrow, easily concealed by the land, and always moving. And I could have always shot above the leg and claimed it was an accident. No one would have known. It’s ironic how much effort we put into not killing these men.

On this day, the sniper squad has a different lineup. There’s always a rotation, letting guys go home on leave once in a while and rotating which lieutenant is in command. We are in place watching the guy, waiting for a shot at his leg, but he’s kneeling down. Lying in the brush, peering through our scopes, we can see where his birdcage is, and discuss how the only clear shot at his foot is probably if he’s near the cage. At one point the Shamen stands up to pee, and while we can’t get his foot, the spotter can see the guy’s penis from 300 meters.

A few minutes later, the target walks to his cage, and we take the shot. We shoot once, and the Shamen hits the ground. Somehow, we can still see his leg, and the other sniper fires off a second shot, and then I follow suit. The Shamen’s screams of pain hit me with how high pitched and “un-manly” they are. It is a direct, certain hit on the prime target. We trudge back to the pickup spot, where some of the guys smoke celebratory cigarettes and we take a group picture.

Later, we spend a lot of time at Karni crossing, a closed down cargo terminal that had been used to transfer goods into Gaza. Apparently, a group of guys is doing suspicious stuff around here. We have to climb a 50-foot ladder to a lookout ledge on a roof, carrying the sniper rifles and equipment. There’s no action though, just hours of cold watchfulness with a digital zoom-equipped thermal night vision scope.

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