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The commando left in the sands Israel today


They were a foreign plant in the forces that fought for the liberation of the Negev: volunteers from North Africa who acted heroically alongside the "beautiful bloom and title" of the Palmach, led by a commander who was not afraid of anything • But the French commando fighters did not receive proper treatment Cohen, who researched the unit's story, says: "The battle for Be'er Sheva lasted five hours, of which two and a half hours the commandos fought alone. They deserve greater recognition "

Nazis in the Negev are fighting Moroccan strikers on a bare hill in front of Sauron's eye. What sounds like a hallucination is a story that really happened, and seems to have been forgotten under the sands of time and the Negev. - A graduate of the battles in North Africa, Normandy and the liberation of Paris from the Nazis - shows up at the Jewish Agency's offices in Paris, declaring his desire to be sent to Palestine to fight. always fighting alongside the justice and experienced military officers he wanted to help the Jews forever.

he was sent to a training camp in southern France, where a messenger Palmach Eliezer (Eli) Oberlander groups of volunteers with military experience, along with young people from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Tripoli, which is Convincing to volunteer for the war. Wait, Palmachs suffocate from Morocco? Oriental, between the beauty of the crystal and the title? In the end everything will connect.

The 35-year-old Dipper is undergoing re-training, but the Palmach members do not trust him and also teach him a radar course, at the end of which the captain writes dryly: "Here I have won the rank of corporal, long live the army!" He was eventually sent to Israel to serve as a battle adviser. He meets Yitzhak Sadeh, commander of the Palmach, which recognizes the passion and his experience and puts him as a consultant in armored vehicles. To be both easy to pronounce the name becomes Theda Teddy, and Dfrh us.

Neither of did not have time and patience to listen to the explanations of the foreign consultant, Who was sent to teach locals armored combat, "says Michael (Mickey) Cohen (91), a proud Palmach and who researched the story of Eitan and the French commando. When looking at photos from the period, it is easy to understand why the Flemish suspects suspected the older Frenchman, who was towering high above them with a Bart hat and sorbon glasses.

After many hardships, Eitan was sent to the 89th Battalion, and when he witnessed the battles of the break-in in the Negev, he lost his temper.

The break-in battalion gets stuck in the wadi and is delayed for precious hours, and Eitan tries to intervene and give orders.

Moshe Dayan, the battalion commander, writes that "the French Teddy lost his temper, cursed vigorously and explained what his commander would have done to him if he had stuck his battalion in a place like the one I did tonight."

Dayan adds that Ethan "made a great impression," but states that "there is not much to learn from him."

Eitan, on the other hand, thinks that Dayan is "a brave, humane man, a psychologist who is interested in his people and knows how to motivate them.

He does not have to raise his voice to be obeyed and respected, he was born a commander. '

After the bureaucracy of an army formed during the war, it was finally decided that with them he would establish a battalion that would be composed almost entirely of French-speaking soldiers (foreign volunteers).

"Remember that at that time, when the IDF issues battle leaflets and distributes them to soldiers, they are written in Yiddish," explains Dr. Zeev Zivan, who erected the watchtower in memory of the French commando soldiers in Ashalim.

"In its early years, the People's Army conducted itself after the collapse of the Tower of Babel. An order was given in Hebrew, someone had to translate it into Yiddish, another translated into English and from there into French, and French translated into Italian for something to happen," says Palmachik in a film about the French commando.

"Teddy was appointed commander of a battalion of French-speaking soldiers," Cohen explains. "They were sent to practice landing from the sea in the Caesarea area.

The idea was to "cut" in the middle the Egyptian army's pioneer corps moving along the coast towards Tel Aviv, invading the sea, as in Normandy, but when the Egyptians stopped at the Ad Halom junction, the operation was canceled. "

"It's not a matter of discrimination."

Michael Cohen // Photo: Brandt Alpern,

And why a French battalion?

'There was also a South American battalion, an English battalion, and other language-based battalions, but they did not prove themselves.

There was a lot of trouble there with all sorts of crooks and imposters.

Eitan also had difficulties with the level of female soldiers and discipline of the members of the new battalion.

His men were charged with drinking, drug trafficking and selling stolen military equipment, including weapons, in the black market of Tel Aviv.

The battalion was denounced as the 'Foreign Legion' and its men were suspected of coming to fight for dubious motives.

Eitan reduced the battalion to about 100 elite fighters, and thus the Palmach's 'French commando' was born, with Eitan its commander and his deputy Oberlander.

In October 1948, the commando was added to the Negev Brigade and participated in Operation Yoav to occupy the Negev. "

Aid forces did not appear

The first operation of the French commando was on October 19, 1948, when two divisions set out to lay mines on the Gaza-Rafah road. Troops were driven to the scene in particularly noisy vehicles, which allowed Egypt to prepare for their arrival. Oberlander marched at the head of the platoon with him, patrolman Yaakov Malka. From the fire of the Egyptian ambush opened on the force, Oberlander was mortally wounded and a queen was killed on the spot. Despite firing forces managed to end the junction mine, Oberlander was rescued to a field hospital and died. Malka's body remained on the battlefield, he is defined as missing to this day and is also missing from the site of the Palmach casualties.

While mourning the death of the revered Oberlander, the commandos were sent as a pioneer corps in the battle for the conquest of Beersheba (Operation Moses).

The break-in was scheduled for midnight, as night was considered the weak point of the Egyptian fighters.

Before the commando, the "commanders' department" was supposed to break into three caterpillars, take control of the passage to the city and then go back and drive the commandos to their destination.

Only at four in the morning did the forces break into the city, not before one of the caterpillars fell into the ditch and his commander was seriously wounded. The canal when he screams and kicks in the back. '

Monument to the Commando Warriors in front of the Negev Monument // Photo: David Peretz,

The fighters crawled under fire through the Muslim cemetery on the outskirts of the city, where Eitan rose and shouted, "Commando Kadima has stormed." The fighters recovered and stormed the Egyptian positions. By five o'clock in the morning, the commandos had completed their mission to take control of the first row of houses in the city, and at this point additional forces were to join them - who did not arrive.

Six of the commandos were injured, and the paramedics lack basic equipment. Ethan cried out for medical help, but it did not arrive. He decided to advance with the commandos towards the mosque (now in the Negev Museum) from which the Egyptians sniped at them. Due to the darkness they found it difficult to hit, and Eitan, realizing that daylight was a danger of death, urged his men to reach the mosque. The commandos advanced in the slowly built-up area and under heavy fire, and after an hour and a half crossed the hundreds of meters close to the mosque.

At this point, forces arrived from the commanders' department headed by Srulna Cohen.

In a study conducted by Michael Cohen, he describes the meeting: "The French commander was 'hot' and very angry.

He said 'I have 12 wounded, laid without treatment, I have run out of ammunition, I have no one to talk to.

Please let your commanders know that they are not listening to me, that if within a quarter of an hour they do not come to transport the casualties and bring ammunition - I am leaving the city!

I passed things on, but instead the commandos were shelled by our forces and I realized that there were shorts in the media. '

Despite the chaos, the French commando fighters and the commanders' department took over Be'er Sheva, with only the police building remaining in Egyptian hands.

The brigade headquarters, unaware of the situation in the city, sent Avraham (Bern) Aden and Company B to seize the train station (now the locomotive compound), which was easily and almost without resistance occupied.

At nine o'clock in the morning the Egyptians submitted their surrender, and Ben-Gurion sent a telegram to the commander of the southern front - "In your blood you have renewed your connection with our father Abraham."

Years later, in the Yom Kippur War, Bern was asked whether to conquer Suez and replied, "If it's Stalingrad - no, if it's Beersheba - yes!"

His remarks indicate how the battle for Be'er Sheva was perceived by him.

"The battle lasted five hours, of which two and a half hours the commando men fought all alone," says Cohen, "a third of the commando fighters were killed or wounded in battle and they deserve greater recognition."

The junction that separates the Negev Museum from the Allenby Garden is named after the French commandos, and when I asked some of the veteran Falafel Assulin and Paul House residents on both sides of the junction this week, no one knew the name of the place.

Dr. Zeev Zivan in Ashalim // Photo: David Peretz,

Horror in the morning light

Higher than the electricity beacon, the entire Ashalim plain can be seen in all its exposed beauty. Solar fields are spread out on all sides, harvesting electricity from the sun. Dr. Zivan looks at the lookout and shakes his head. "Look at the vandalism" he points to a sign with a shredded picture of Ben-Gurion getting excited about a solar panel. The wooden benches were uprooted and stolen, and in their place the vandals left inscriptions in Arabic. "They think that by destroying and demolishing signs they will defeat us," Zivan sighed. In the center of the plain stands the central tower of the power plant in Ashalim, surrounded by a circle of mirrors. The surrealistic look earned the glamorous pillar the nickname "Sauron's Eye," the Dark Lord in The Lord of the Rings.

After the conquest of Be'er Sheva, soldiers - including commandos - looted property that remained in the city as booty of war. Eitan refused to accept the matter, and when his men insisted on taking the loot, he stopped the trucks away from their base near Kibbutz Gvulot, and the soldiers walked the rest of the way on foot only with their weapons. Although the looting was done by many of the soldiers of the Negev Brigade, the stain stuck to the commandos. "When I initiated the erection of the watchtower in their memory, the Palmach veterans asked me - 'and do they deserve it?'" Says Zivan.

This was on November 25, 1948. The commandos were sent to occupy Hill XIII with the signposts controlling the road to Nitzana. In the film, the commandos say that among the voices of the soldiers in the nearby hills they heard a lot of German. "There were Germans from the Nazi army who joined the Egyptian forces," than Zivan.

Painful disregard

The commandos fought valiantly throughout the night, but the mortars crushed them, and the forces included many dead and wounded, including Ethan.

The armored unit, which was supposed to arrive and reinforce, got stuck in a minefield and was delayed, and the ammunition ran out.

When dawn broke, Eitan realized that if they remained they would be completely destroyed, and the commando retreated at dusk.

The exhausted soldiers dragged the wounded to the Turkish railway line, only tens of meters from the hill, where they hid them under the bridge and vowed to return.

They joined the other forces that finally arrived and after only an hour occupied the outposts with the armored vehicles.

In the rising sunlight the horror was revealed.

As they retreated, the wounded and corpses underwent severe, cruel, and extreme abuse unparalleled in the war, and their bodies were mutilated by multiple beatings and shots.

The enraged commando men, imbued with a sense of revenge, shot the Egyptian prisoners until the rest of the unit men arrested them, but the difficult night events sealed the fate of the French commando.

The nine commando victims were buried in Revivim's military cemetery.

The Negev Brigade members cut off contact with the commando, and Eitan found no one to help the crumbling unit.

Hungry for food and without a proper military envelope, the commandos degenerated into stealing food and went to work in the only clothes they had - military uniforms.

They were arrested by the military police as deserters and sent to jail, but when the judge heard their story - he released them immediately.

Less than a number of commandos remained in Israel.

All the rest left bitterly for their countries of origin or settled in France.

Eitan rejected an offer to serve as a battalion commander, and sent a letter full of frustration and despair to Ben-Gurion, in which he asked for an explanation for the lack of support and contempt he and his soldiers received.

At the end of the letter, he promised to remain a loyal and devoted friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

Ben-Gurion did not respond, and Eitan returned to France and was killed in a car accident in 1972.

The Warriors Monument // Photo: David Peretz,

In 1975, Gilad Katan was established in Eitan's memory next to the monument of the Negev Brigade, and in 1995 the French commando lookout was inaugurated in Ashalim - the two sites do not appear on the Palmach Brigade's website. Only 55 years after the battle The uprising. In 2004, his widow and daughter received the award from the French ambassador.

Over the years, the story of the French commando has remained a stone that many chose not to turn. Is it because of the ethnic demon? "Do not talk about discrimination!" , But not in the war! '73 years later, the story of the commandos deserves to be recognized, told and investigated for their actions, as part of the story of the Palmach, the battles of the Negev and the rebirth of the people of Israel in their land. 

Source: israelhayom

All news articles on 2021-10-22

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