‘There’s an RPG, this is the enemy’: IAF footage shows horror as Oct. 7 terrorists ID’d

Audio recordings shed light on difficulties faced by drone operators trying to take out terrorists without harming Israeli forces on southern Israel’s Route 232

Screenshot of leaked Israeli Air Force drone footage from the morning of October 7, published by Channel 12 on April 30, 2024. (Screenshot, Channel 12: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screenshot of leaked Israeli Air Force drone footage from the morning of October 7, published by Channel 12 on April 30, 2024. (Screenshot, Channel 12: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Leaked footage of the Israeli Air Force’s actions on the morning of the October 7 Hamas terror onslaught aired on Tuesday evening, showing for the first time the decisions made by the IAF’s Unmanned Aircraft Squadron as it attempted to make sense of the chaos unfurling on the ground with no clear instructions.

The leaked drone footage was published as an exclusive item by Channel 12 and was not issued by the military.

The footage was taken above Route 232, a vital artery in southern Israel that became the scene of a massacre on October 7 as invading Hamas terrorists fired at vehicles attempting to reach, or flee, overrun Gaza border communities.

At around 7:30 a.m. on October 7, roughly an hour after the start of the unprecedented Hamas assault, the Air Force’s 200th Squadron, which operates the Heron 1 drone, was ordered to launch all usable UAVs to patrol the skies of southern Israel, Lt. Col. Yod, identified only by his Hebrew initial, recounted to Channel 12, adding that this included drones with malfunctions that should have been grounded.

The drone operators were instructed to direct their attention to the roads surrounding Kibbutz Mefalsim, where the white Toyota pickup trucks used by the invading Hamas terrorists were abandoned haphazardly next to burned cars of Israeli civilians, with the bodies of the vehicles’ murdered or wounded occupants strewn across the ground. Groups of armed men could be seen clustered around the vehicles, but whether they were terrorists or Israeli forces was initially unclear.

“We spoke to a security official on the phone who told us that the enemy was in the area of Kibbutz Mefalsim, but he didn’t know where they were or how many of them there were,” a drone operator referred to only as Lt. Col. Resh told Channel 12.

The only thing that the official was able to tell the drone operators with certainty was that Shin Bet operatives were also on the ground in the area, Resh added.

In audio recordings obtained by the outlet, the drone operators can be heard attempting to distinguish between invading terrorists and Shin Bet operatives while trying to work fast to fire on the terrorists and prevent them from breaching the nearby kibbutz.

“Look, they’re terrorists. There are people here with headbands on,” an officer is heard saying over the radio. “It looks like dozens of terrorists. Just verify that these aren’t our forces.”

“There’s an RPG, this is the enemy,” the officer is heard saying a moment later. “Listen to me, there are multiple RPGs there.”

After verifying the position of the armed terrorists, a strike was called, the footage of which was captured by the drones. The same scene repeated itself multiple times throughout the ensuing hours, with the drone operators growing quicker as they became familiar with the identifying marks of the Hamas terrorists.

“In the end, by working with tweezer-like precision, we determined who the enemy was and who our forces were,” drone operator Maj. A. told Channel 12.

File: Israeli soldiers seen on Route 232 near the southern Israeli city of Sderot, October 7, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The IDF scrambled to regain control after some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists burst through the Gaza border via the land, air and sea in the early hours of October 7, carrying out a murderous rampage of unprecedented intensity and breadth.

The Israeli military struggled to mount a response, with bases closest to the border overrun and the chain of command seemingly broken amid the chaos.

Some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — were slaughtered and another 253 were seized as hostages, of whom 129 still remain in captivity in Gaza.

About 1,000 of the terrorists were killed inside Israel.

In March, the IDF launched an internal investigation into the military’s failures in the lead-up to October 7, the findings of which are expected to be presented to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi by the beginning of June, according to the military.

The Air Force probe into its actions on October 7 is being led by a brigadier general who did not serve in any role during the onslaught.

“We don’t feel successful. We feel like we failed,” Lt. Col. Resh told Channel 12 of the 200th Squadron’s operations during the morning of the terror assault. “We feel that we’re obligated to restore trust in us. There were lost hours that we can’t get back. I hope that we managed to minimize the damage later in the day.”

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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