Friday, July 19, 2013

A Year after Burgas Tragedy, IDF Officer Remembers

A Year after Burgas Tragedy, IDF Officer Remembers Helping Israeli Victims of Terror

By  on July 18, 2013

The IDF’s International Squadron flies missions overseas to provide humanitarian aid to countries requiring medical assistance. After last year’s Burgas terror attack, an IDF officer recalls how members of the squadron arrived in a foreign country to care for their own

One year ago today, a Hezbollah terrorist killed five Israelis and injured 32 others vacationing in the Bulgarian city of Burgas. As the tourists prepared to depart the airport for their hotel, a suicide bomber boarded their tour bus and detonated an explosive. Moments after learning of the attack, the Israel Air Force’s International Squadron deployed to Bulgaria to provide medical care to injured survivors.
The International Squadron, one of the IAF’s most distinguished units, flies missions overseas to provide humanitarian aid to countries requiring medical assistance. Special missions have taken the squadron across the globe – everywhere from Japan and Haiti to Ghana and Mexico. During last year’s rare emergency, the crew flew to a foreign country to care for their own.
In an interview with the IDF Blog, Maj. Itai described a difficult and emotional experience on the ground, recalling his interactions with victims of the terror attack.
“They were very quiet, and they were very much in shock,” Maj. Itai said of the Israeli survivors. “They wanted as much as possible to go home, but they were very relaxed because they saw that many people had arrived to help and care for them.”
Maj. Itai’s crew had an especially trying task: to bring the coffins of the five Israeli casualties back to Ben Gurion Airport in Israel.
As ordered by the Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the International Squadron arrived as part of an IDF medical team to assist victims suffering from a range of injuries. While the squadron mostly dealt with lightly injured victims, other teams transferred severely wounded victims back to Israel.
The advanced IDF medical team included doctors specializing in a variety of fields, including trauma, orthopedics, intensive care, surgery, burns and pediatrics.
In an exclusive IDF video, which was filmed one year ago in Burgas, Medical Operations Officer Maj. Assi Halper gave a live account of the operation. Working as part of the Homefront Command – a division of the military that specializes in aiding victims of terror attacks in Israel – Maj. Halper directed efforts to assist and evacuate Israeli survivors in Burgas.
The IDF’s elite Airborne Rescue and Evacuation Unit, 669, also took part in the mission, working with a range of professionals to make assessments about the situation on the ground.
Maj. Itai recalled the strong feelings of cooperation among the IDF personnel who were in Burgas, saying they felt united by a common purpose to help the Israeli victims.
“There were a lot of IDF forces,” Maj. Itai explained. “It gives you a good feeling to know that they were coming from all over the world to help one another.”