We had set up our position at the very front of the Israeli offensive into Gaza. We were it. We were the front line. We had advanced faster and farther than any other unit in the army. Such being the case, we accepted a request to help the 101st Battalion of the Paratroopers. They had also continued their advance, but they had not yet cleared out all of the houses in their area of operations. So, while they secured themselves also on the very front, we sent a platoon to go behind them and thoroughly check the residential areas that 101 had passed through briefly for weapons, explosives, etc.

That platoon was us, Platoon 6 of Heavy Weapons and Recon, Battalion 890.

We began our entrance into the Palestinian neighborhood. This entrance, however, was unlike all of our other offensives. All of our other advances had been in full war mode against mostly abandoned and very rich Hamas neighborhoods. The little human population we encountered consisted exclusively of a scattered collection of heavily armed terrorists sporting AK-47s, Dragonov sniper rifles, and the classic RPGs. We smashed them hard with no hesitation.

This neighborhood, however, was not a Hamas neighborhood. It was therefore not a rich neighborhood either. In the IDF we have two basic modus operandi. I call them "War Mode" and "Police Mode." In "War Mode" we destroy pretty much everything and everyone. We do our best to avoid civilian casualties, and certainly do not target them. The problem is that terrorists, contrary to popular conception, do not walk around in uniforms and carry Hamas flags. They wear civilian clothing. This factor creates a huge headache for the Rules of Engagement. Under normal circumstances an individual taking a stroll in non-military clothing is a civilian. But the moment he pulls a hand-grenade out of his pocket, he becomes a terrorist and a threat. One thing that always seemed ironic to me, however, is that the moment he throws the hand-grenade he immediately becomes unarmed. This is one of the reasons why the calculations of "civilians" killed varies so much between Hamas and Israeli figures. (And, of course, the obvious fact that Hamas lies.) In the mindset of Hamas, the sixteen year-old youth that just threw a hand-grenade is now currently unarmed and therefore should not be killed, especially because he is only sixteen. I, personally, strongly differ with that idea. I think if anyone, even a sixteen year-old kid, throws a hand-grenade at anyone, especially me, he should be promptly and immediately shot. I can tell you from personal experience that I have seen sixteen year-olds kill just as well, or better, than a sixty year-old. And he knows full-well what he is doing.

So the point is that in "War Mode" we destroy. We shoot first and ask questions later... In "Police Mode," however, we function much more like an American SWAT team and do our best to capture and interrogate, and assume that human contact is civilian until proven to be a threat.

For this assignment Captain America informed us that we were switching to "Police Mode." Apparently 101 had spotted numerous persons in the area, and they were not an immediate Hamas threat. We were going into that neighborhood to determine just that. It was possible that they were merely civilians who for some unknown reason had decided to sit in their houses while we bombed everything around them. Or it was possible that they were actually Hamas, or associated with one of the many other terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.

We entered the neighborhood. I placed my M4 assault rifle around a corner and covered Captain America and "Afula." Afula was our radioman. He was leading the offensive with Captain America due to his ability to speak Arabic. He had learned to speak both Arabic and English originally from the shuks and marketplaces of northern Israel. He later touched up his linguistic skills with military courses in interrogation and hostage negotiation.

I scanned the narrow alleyways with Shaft at my side. He worked to steady his very heavy MAG 7.62 mm squad machine gun, ready to send a massive volley of bullets down a side alley if any threat made the mistake of approaching.

There we remained. The tension was high. We knew for a fact that there was human contact in the area. And, because we were in "Police Mode," the tension was even higher. "Police Mode" is much more dangerous because you have to wait until the human contact proves himself to be a threat before you kill him. That means that if he is a suicide bomber or has any kind of weapon he has the advantage of your hesitation. And they know it, too.

I kneeled at the corner for what seemed like an eternity. A donkey walked by. Then a rooster. Then a dog. Then a small horse. Then a group of sheep. Then a cat. Then a goat. And then, to my surprise, an entire gaggle of ducks waddled by. (Is it a gaggle for ducks too, or just geese?...) And there, with my assault rifle ready to fire, and Shaft next to me with an enormous machine gun, I couldn't resist but comment.

"Hey, Shaft," I hissed across the alley. "What is this? Are we assaulting a petting zoo?!"

The problem was that he started laughing. We both did our best to remain as quiet as possible. It broke the tension, but two Americans holding machine guns and laughing isn't a smart idea. Major Bloodlust was in the area and gave us a warning glance, sending the obvious message that we needed to stay serious and control ourselves.

Captain America and Afula neared the entrance of one of the houses. If you could call it a house. It was more like a group of large shacks thrown together somehow. Afula began to shout in Arabic. I speak no Arabic, but some words are very similar to Hebrew, so I can pick up a little bit here and there. Likewise, he translated it all into Hebrew for Captain America.

"If there is anyone inside, come out and surrender immediately! If you do not, you will be killed!"

Without hesitation an entire family exited the dwelling. A man, his several wives, and numerous children. All obviously very poor and unarmed. We leveled our rifles at them but did not shoot. Afula carried on the conversation, asking basic questions such as "Do you have any weapons?" and "Is there anyone else inside?"

The answer to both questions was "No." We proceeded to tie up the men with cable ties and blindfold them. The women we didn't touch. Then we told the men and their families to sit in a certain corner of their "yard" and guarded them. I then proceeded to enter to house and check for weapons.

These people had no connection to Hamas. Therefore they were unarmed and very, very poor. I went through the house searching everywhere for weapons, doing my best not to damage what little they had.

We continued on to the next residences, leaving soldiers to guard the first family. Afula again called out in Arabic, and again a similar-looking family exited. Again they were poor and unarmed.

It was the same story, more or less, but there was a little twist to the conversation. This time there was still one person inside the residence, but he was "too sick" to exit. Afula told him that if he did not come out he would be killed. The father of the family protested, saying in Arabic (that I actually understood) that he was mentally ill and therefore simply incapable of exiting. We were unsure of what to do. The only reasonable solution it seemed was to proceed with caution. Maybe there was someone legitimately unable to exit the shack. Maybe it was a trap, and there was someone sitting there waiting for me to round the corner holding a machine gun, grenade, or an RPG. I moved forward and "opened the corner," as we call it in Hebrew, finger on the trigger and ready for anything.

I will never forget what I saw in there. I can't even begin to properly to describe what was in that shed. Neither do I really want to. I saw what bore some resemblance to a human being. But his mental faculties were so low that he was living like an animal. Worse than an animal. He was filthy, covered in his own urine, excrement, and some sort of wet mush that he apparently considered "food."

I looked over my shoulder to Sgt. Obama.

"What is this place? Where are we?"

Then he explained. This neighborhood was incredibly poor. It also consisted largely of Bedouin Arabs. It was basically a colony, if you will, of the extremely poor, the physically and mentally ill. Most of them were inbred even, the result of incestuous polygamy. They were simply financially, physically, or mentally incapable of fleeing our assault and bombardment. So there they sat, with mortars and bombs falling all around them, waiting their fate.

Hamas, the great "Martyrs of Freedom," "Warriors of the People," had left them there to die. These people were too poor and/or sick to be of any use to them.

At one point one of our soldiers, Danny-Boy, peered out the window and checked for threats from the outside. Almost immediately a bullet slammed into the wall just next to his head. But it wasn't a terrorist threat. It was one of our own snipers. He was not part of our battalion and had been both confused as to our location as well as a bit trigger-happy. The saddest part of Operation Cast Lead is that we ended up killing more of our own soldiers with friendly fire than even Hamas did.

After checking the house I sat on the "porch" and guarded the family. One of the men was sick with a pretty bad cold. He was tied up and blindfolded, just to be on the safe side. But his nose was dirty. Sgt. Obama asked me if I still had my toilet paper (an obvious necessity in the army). He then gave one of the women a strip of tissue and permission to briefly clean his nose.

Another soldier, however, wasn't as sympathetic. We had given him the nickname "Commander Darwin" due to his obvious stupidity and because he was quite clearly the missing link of Darwinian evolution. Commander Darwin first complained that we were in "Police Mode" rather than "War Mode." Captain America harshly rebuked him for that comment. He later began an argument with a half-crazy old woman. She was rambling on an on, something about Allah protecting them and so forth. I ignored her but Commander Darwin began a theological debate with her. Sgt. Obama and I both grew angry. Sgt. Obama, both of ours superior, told him in no uncertain terms to shut his mouth.

I agreed 100% with Sgt. Obama. I had absolutely no problem killing terrorists. And I will continue to shoot them and blow them up and utterly destroy their headquarters and mansions at every opportunity and not think twice about it. These people, however, are not my enemy. I don't think they particularly liked me, but so what? They were incapable in all facets of doing anything negative to me or the Jewish people. So just leave them alone.

Axel claimed later that he saw Commander Darwin secretly, intentionally, and unnecessarily damage one of their cars while searching for weapons. Axel later made a comment about it to me and the army doctor. The army doctor was enraged and swore that he would have Commander Darwin investigated and put in jail.

His fate has yet to be determined.

It is with great embarrassment that I relate the account of Commander Darwin. But I write it for two reasons. First, I want my story to be as accurate as possible. True history is the real story, not just the parts we want to remember. Also there is a very serious morale to be learned from his actions. Blind hate is the reason why there is no peace with the Jewish people. People hate us blindly. But if we respond to blind hate with more blind hate, it becomes a vicious circle and ultimately more people die. I hate Hamas. I hate terrorism. I did not and do not hate those people.

After a few hours we untied the men and left. I looked at the faces of the men, curious to see how they were responding to being tied up and blindfolded for several hours. To my surprise they were laughing about it. They would probably forever tell their friends and family about the day they "survived the Israeli assault," and sat tied up for several hours. Just as I tell my stories I am sure that even now they are telling their stories. Maybe there is even a blog somewhere in Arabic on the internet...

As we were leaving, one of the wives who did not suffer from any mental handicaps admitted to us that they were suffering from Hamas as well. My initial thought was that she was simply trying to patronize us, lying to us in order to gain favor. But I thought twice about that judgment as I returned to the Hamas mansion just down the street complete with computers, plasma screen televisions, and a greenhouse full of weeds.

No, I don't think she was lying. She knew who the real enemy was. And it wasn't me.