The reservists who patrol near the Netiv HaAsara kibbutz are weekend warriors. They were among thousands of men and women called up by the Israel Defense Forces just for this latest war in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military on Thursday announced it had called up an additional 16,000 reservists, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed the attacks would not stop until Hamas' tunnels into Israel are completely destroyed.
Gaza officials said Thursday that at least 1,427 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 7,000 wounded since the beginning of the military operations. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have died and more than 400 have been wounded. Three civilians have been killed in Hamas strikes.
The squadron members asked that their last names not be used.
The squadron commander, Maj. Itay S., is a 36-year-old father of two toddler daughters. He works for an agriculture business that develops dairy farming.
Capt. Ronen and Sgt. Lior are both expecting babies. Lior’s wife is due in just three weeks — a baby boy.
If it were up to them, Ronen said, none of them would be here. "We are here and we are determined to fulfill our mission to the best extent," he said.
He added that he tells his 3-year-old daughter that daddy will be home soon. "Of course I wish it was over."
Ronen said he and his fellow reservists strive for peace.
“It may be frowned upon when it comes from someone who wears a uniform, but we’re also civilians," he added. "And we’re seeking peace and we’re seeking progress and prosperity.”
Not just for Israelis, he added, but also for Palestinians in Gaza.
Ronen recalls serving in the mid-1990s on joint patrols with Palestinians.
“It can happen again. It should happen again,” he said. “There are a lot of innocent people there who just want to make a living.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.