Under cover of darkness, the army company approached the Gaza border fence, wary of possible enemy fire. Carefully and quietly, soldiers opened a large gate in the fence and stepped over the line, determined to complete their mission and return the hostages to their home.
No, this is not a description of a top secret operation performed during the summer war by elite commandos. It is, in fact, an account of an event which took place only days ago, and the two unwilling captives are, well, a pair of lost camels.
The two animals had accidentally crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge, Walla News reported Friday, having wandered over the border when the military opened sections of the fence to allow armored vehicles to move inside.
The two, part of a herd which remained on the Gazan side, did not stray far, but became stranded when the fence was resealed, and could not return home.
When the camels’ owner – who said they were worth around NIS 15 thousand (around $4,000) – put in a request to the army through Palestinian Authority officials to return his property to him, the military complied.
“It was important for us to help out,” said Major Bassem Hinou of the Gaza District Coordination Office which handles military-Palestinian relations. “The owner…makes his living from tending to the camels and from their milk.”
A military patrol quickly identified the two animals sauntering around a patch of foliage. They took them in, but their transfer over the border was considered somewhat dangerous, as army commanders feared opening the border gate could lead to militant fire against the troops. And so the task was treated as a military operation, with all the caution such action entails.
An entire company of Givati infantry soldiers was dispatched to the border after nightfall Thursday, near the location of the Gaza herd.
“The border fence gate was opened and (military trackers) let the camels loose,” Hinou recounted. “The older camel went over into the Palestinian territory, but the younger camel tried to come back.”
“The soldiers and the trackers had to drag him over to the Palestinian side,” he added.
Hinou said the army was later notified that “the camels reached their owners.”