Barefoot and afraid: Yamam fighters recount dramatic rescue of Noa Argamani from Gaza –

In World

“Noa, we came to save you and bring you home.” This is what Yamam fighters told Noa Argamani moments after breaking into the apartment in Nuseirat, where Hamas terrorists held her.

In a conversation with Walla, three Yamam fighters who participated in the operation to rescue the four hostages a week ago in Nuseirat recounted the tense and dramatic minutes and the great void left after their comrade, Superintendent Arnon Zamora, fell during the operation.

“The moment we broke into the apartment where Noa was held, we encountered three terrorists there and quickly neutralized them, reaching Noa’s room within seconds,” described Yamam fighter Commander A.

“The first two fighters who arrived said to her, ‘Noa, we came to save you, we came to bring you home.’ She was shocked; she didn’t quite grasp or believe what was happening.”

“One of the fighters carried her on his back,” continued A., recounting the rescue operation. “She was barefoot. We wrapped her with fighters around her, and we left as quickly as possible after ensuring the apartment was clear of terrorists.”

Yamam operatives rescue former hostage Noa Argamani from Hamas captivity in Nuseirat, Gaza. (ISRAEL POLICE SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

“At this stage, the air force supported us, and we entered a vehicle in order to retreat. She was terrified; I don’t think she believed what was happening before her eyes,” he continued. ” Her first question was whether her mother was still alive. I told her yes. She looked right and left at us and asked again if we were sure. We told her yes, ‘that’s why we came, to bring you back to your mother.'”

The sounds of gunfire continued throughout the operation. “We opened fire and then returned fire,” said Deputy Superintendent A., another Yamam fighter. “A very heavy firefight developed in our immediate proximity. Our main focus was the procedure—first, to reach the hostages and protect them; no matter what the threat on the way was, it had to be neutralized immediately. We needed to reach the hostages, and meanwhile, Arnon got injured, complicating the mission and execution, but we managed to handle it.”

Sergeant Major Y., another team fighter, said that the fighters didn’t care about anything else when their feet were on the ground. “We needed to blow up the door, enter, and rescue Noa as quickly as possible because we understood the risk of any delay on the way to the target,” he said, adding: “The chaos started the moment we blew up the door, and we had air force cover.”

The preparations for the operation took weeks: meticulous planning, assessment, and readiness for every scenario. Only when the right time came did Yamam and the Shin Bet, with the support of the IDF, head to the heart of Nuseirat for a rescue operation that surpassed all imagination, but for the Yamam fighters, it was very tangible.

“We trained very intensively,” shared Deputy Superintendent A. “We devised a perfect and accurate plan, including practicing all cases and responses. Nothing happened that we hadn’t practiced in the activity. The only thing we didn’t plan was that we would come out with Arnon injured, and eventually, his death would be determined.”

Helmet camera footage of Shin Bet operatives and Israel Police Counterterrorism Unit Yamam rescuing hostages under heavy fire and kill terrorists, June 10, 2024. (credit: Israel Police)

Unlike in the past, this operation took place in broad daylight in a crowded neighborhood with terrorists everywhere.

“We understand the implications of the conditions we operated under and tried to minimize the risk and maximize the capabilities to accomplish the mission and bring the hostages,” noted Commander A. “Initially, we reviewed all the options on the table and then chose the method that gave the most advantages, allowing the execution relative to the disadvantages. Finally, the action plan was according to a time window in which we could act.”

The operation also included unexpected obstacles, such as the stuck escape vehicle. “While everything around was fire and smoke, and when it seemed everything was going according to plan, the escape convoy got stuck,” recalled Deputy Superintendent A. “We had to wait for the army to arrive and assist us exiting. The moment of the reunion and transfer to the helicopters took about half an hour.”

Not without sacrifice

The mission was completed, but the team did not remain unscathed. Superintendent Arnon Zamora, who led the operation, fell in battle.

Fallen Border Police Yamam fighter Arnon Zamora (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT, ISRAEL POLICE)

“The sigh of relief didn’t come,” shared Deputy Superintendent A. with pain. “Shortly after the exit, we were informed that Arnon had been killed. So, although there was relief regarding the force’s security, it was a tough message to receive when coming out after such an operation. I’ve known Arnon since he joined the unit. He was a team commander in the division where I served as deputy division commander. Our connection has tightened over the last year and a half since he joined our division.”

“Daily, Arnon was very present in situations and sharp in everything, from decision-making. Alongside all this, he knew how to take care of his team in everything related to service conditions, the social situation, and the team he commanded, including caring for the fighters’ spouses and children and their time at home, everything beyond the mission. Arnon always wanted to be in the most influential places, and so it was in this operation. He led one of the breach forces into the target, and in one of the encounters at the entrance to the building, he was hit by terrorist fire. There is no better way to describe true bravery in such an action.”

Sergeant Major Y. was one of Arnon Zamora’s closest friends in Yamam and long before that. “I’ve known Arnon for nearly 20 years; we have been good friends since then, and he was involved in extreme sports and parachuting. He was a parachute instructor, and the combination of parachuting that he loved and his profession as a fighter in the unit fit him like a glove. We went through training together. Just before we started the training, he called me and said: ‘Come on Friday, I want us to do the parachute jump together, so we start the course in the best way.’ After we finished the jump, he hugged me and said: ‘Brother, we will pass this successfully.’ And indeed, we completed the training successfully.”

Sergeant Major Y. added, “Arnon was a very ethical, deep man of conversation and spirit. He loved philosophy very much. He was the first to charge. He was a samurai. Arnon was also a father to Noa and Itay, an amazing father who cared for them and gave them everything he loved and tried to instill in them. An amazing husband to a wonderful wife, Michal, a magical and rare relationship, talking about everything and sharing. I envy that; I don’t have that much of his strength, the ability to share and talk about everything. When you talk to him and look into his eyes, you see a clean and pure person; what comes out of his mouth comes straight from the heart. Arnon will be missed in our shared conversations. Arnon was always the first address I consulted with and shared my doubts with because he always knew how to tell the truth. People here are aware of the prices they might pay. Just before going out on the operation, Arnon asked me how I was, and I told him I was ready. I also asked him, and he replied that he was ready and that it was the most ethical mission, and we must bring the hostages home at all costs.”

Deputy Superintendent A. added regarding the sacrifice and heavy price that “in Yamam, there is no possibility before an operation to think about the price one might pay because it is inherent in the service here. Sergeant Major Y. added that if they had asked Arnon the question of the price and whether he was willing to be killed, he would have answered yes.”

Read More: Barefoot and afraid: Yamam fighters recount dramatic rescue of Noa Argamani from Gaza –

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