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'If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is'

Wounded soldier’s father says a bullet hit his grenade, but it didn’t explode

Conditions of both soldiers wounded during northern West Bank arrest raid improve, but one is still serious

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits one of the soldiers hurt in the West Bank raid against a Hamas cell, at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, September 27, 2021. (courtesy)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits one of the soldiers hurt in the West Bank raid against a Hamas cell, at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, September 27, 2021. (courtesy)

One of the bullets that struck a counter-terrorism officer during a predawn raid earlier this week hit a grenade he was carrying but did not cause the device to detonate, his father said Wednesday.

“There was a fragmentation grenade on his vest. One of the bullets hit the grenade and split it in two, and it didn’t explode. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is,” said the father of the officer, who can only be identified by his rank and first Hebrew initial of his name, Cpt. “Dalet.”

Dalet’s father, Yossi, said his son’s condition had slightly improved as of Wednesday morning. He said his son had responded to a question by nodding his head.

“After three days of my son undergoing surgeries for hours, this morning his doctors started trying to wean him off anesthetics so that he’ll wake up,” said his father.

Dalet was one of two soldiers to be seriously injured in raids in the early hours of Sunday morning. His father said his son was hit by nine bullets during an exchange of gunfire in the town of Burqin outside Jenin in the northern West Bank.

The condition of the second soldier — Sgt. First Class “Yod” — improved significantly since Sunday, the hospital said. On Wednesday, he was released from the intensive care unit and moved to a chest surgery ward to recuperate.

“He was released from the intensive care unit, conscious, stable, alert and aware of his surroundings. With his release from the IC unit, his friends and comrades from his platoon stood by him in two lines and emotionally saluted as he went past,” the hospital said in a statement.

Dalet’s grenade had not detonated after being hit by a bullet as it was a newer model with a specially designed blast mechanism that is meant to be less likely to explode when hit by gunfire. This new type of fragmentation grenade was designed after an incident in 2010 in which a standard model that was hanging on the vest of Maj. Eliraz Peretz exploded after it was hit by a bullet during an operation in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF was investigating the circumstances in which Dalet and Yod were seriously injured and increasingly believed that they were hit by friendly fire after a Palestinian gunman opened fire at them in Burqin.

The two soldiers were taken by helicopter to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.

Five Palestinian suspects were killed in the raids, which targeted alleged members of a Hamas cell in the West Bank, preventing a major terror attack, officials said.

On Monday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visited the hospital, telling the families of the soldiers that their sons had prevented imminent terror attacks.

“It is important for you to know that if we had not stopped this network, of the Hamas terror organization, they would have been at an advanced stage and would have carried out attacks in Israeli cities,” the IDF chief said. “Your sons prevented these attacks.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also visited the wounded troops and their families on Monday.

Military officials were reportedly considering awarding a citation to the paramedic who used an unorthodox lifesaving treatment on the soldiers after the gun battle. The 21-year-old decided not to conduct resuscitation on the wounded sergeant in contravention to military’s guidelines, a senior medical officer told the Ynet news site.

“Resuscitation here would have led to heavy pressure on the lungs and would have worsened his condition,” the unnamed officer was quoted as saying.

The senior officer said that the paramedic’s treatment was a “dramatic flagship event” and that without his decision, “we would have been on our way to funerals.”

According to the IDF, at least seven suspected members of the Hamas cell were arrested during arrest raids overnight Saturday, and at least five other suspected terrorists were killed after they opened fire at IDF troops. Five guns were also confiscated in the raids, along with large amounts of ammunition. Several other members of the group had been arrested on the preceding nights.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed that the Hamas cell was planning to carry out terror attacks imminently.

“Security forces acted tonight in Judea and Samaria against Hamas terrorists who were poised to carry out terror attacks in the immediate future,” Bennett said in a statement, en route to New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly, using the biblical term for the West Bank.

The IDF also believes some members of the Hamas cell are still on the loose. In total, some 20 suspected members of the cell have been arrested in recent days, according to the military.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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