HomeGlobal Defence UpdatesIsraeli women take on greater military role in Gaza war

Israeli women take on greater military role in Gaza war

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Marom sprinted towards a post perched in the mountains above Israel’s border with Egypt, slamming her M16 rifle onto a defensive position as part of a training exercise.

The 21-year-old soldier became one of the first Israeli women to fight in a combat role in Gaza, where she recently spent two weeks.

Israel’s ground offensive in the Palestinian territory, which came in response to unprecedented attacks by Hamas militants on October 7 against southern Israel, has shifted military attitudes towards women.

“In Gaza, it was the first time for all women,” said Marom, who like other soldiers interviewed declined to give her second name, under military rules.

“We can see the change, we can see the acceptance of the girls going into combat,” she said.

Since the early stages of the war, there has been outrage over media reports that military leaders ignored warnings from young women assigned as lookouts along Gaza’s militarised border, in the months leading up to the Hamas attacks.”It’s a big mistake and I don’t know how it happened,” Eliora, 20, said.But now, months into the Gaza war, women say they have found acceptance.

Shana, a 23-year-old battalion commander, said the war has shown that women fighters can take on a bigger role.

“At first, with the ponytail coming out from the helmet, they (male soldiers) look at it a little strange, but at the end of the day, we’re ready, we’ve trained for it,” she said.

Hamas’s attack on Israel resulted in the death of about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, around 132 of whom Israel says remain in Gaza. At least 27 captives are believed to have been killed, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

– Combat –

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has been conducting a relentless air and ground offensive that has killed at least 24,927 Palestinians, around 70 percent of them women, children and adolescents, according to figures from the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

“The civilians in Gaza — we want to keep their safety as much as we can but it’s a war,” said Marom.

“It’s all destroyed,” she added after her deployment to Gaza’s main southern city of Khan Yunis, where the women soldiers said they uncovered a Hamas tunnel.

The Israeli army has reported 194 troop deaths since the beginning of ground operations in Gaza in late October.

According to the Israeli army, one woman soldier, Noa Marciano, 19, has died in Gaza. She had been taken hostage on October 7, according to the army. Hamas said she was killed in an Israeli strike.

Even before the state of Israel was created in 1948, women played an important role in the Haganah militia that fought for the state’s establishment.

The majority of Israeli men are now required to serve two years and eight months after they turn 18, while women serve two years.

Women’s roles had historically been confined to positions such as nurses or radio operators, but now they are allowed to serve in nearly every unit, including some combat units.

Before the outbreak of fighting in Gaza, a rising number of women recruits were assuming combat roles.

The number of women combat soldiers jumped 350 percent between 2013 and 2017, according to data compiled by the Israel Democracy Institute think tank.

In 2022, women made up 17 percent of the fighting force, according to the Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli think tank.

Marom, who serves in the Bardelas battalion, said more of her friends and their sisters are asking her about serving in the army.

“I can see more women, when they get to 18, want to serve in combat,” she said.

Marom refused to speculate about what she would do after the war.

“When we win this war — and we will win this war — then we get to the time for plans for life.”

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