Gilad Shalit’s capture was the result of operational failures on his part and on the part of other members of his tank crew, interviews with Shalit have revealed.
Shalit, the only member of a three-man crew who survived a cross-border, guerrilla-style attack on June 25, 2005 by armed Palestinians from Gaza, failed to seize several opportunities to fire on his seven attackers during the raid, according to military debriefings following Shalit’s release, Israeli journalist Ben Caspit reported.
According to the report, Shalit’s Merkava III tank remained fully operational even after militiamen hit it with an RPG rocket. Shalit knew how to operate the tank and could have driven away, Caspit wrote in an article. Alternatively, Shalit could have opened fire either from the main barrel or from a formidable machine gun that he could have operated from within the safety of the tank, according to Caspit.
Shalit was released in a 2011 deal with Hamas in exchange for 1,027 prisoners, many of them convicted terrorists responsible for killing Israelis.
The terrorist cell that staged the attack was seven men strong but at the time of the attack there were only two gunmen outside Shalit’s tank. They killed two Israeli tank members, Hanan Barak and Pavel Slutzker, who abandoned the tank against regulations. Shalit came out of the tank without his personal M-16 assault rifle and told his captors not to shoot.
The soldiers had been warned to watch out for abduction or attacks based on new intelligence but ignored the instructions, Caspit said. At the time of the attack, only one crew member was awake, though regulations demanded two stand watch at dawn. Shalit’s commanders arranged extra backup from combat engineers because of the elevated risk, but Shalit, a gunner, never radioed in the attack, the report said.