Tonight we actually carried out the previously mentioned mission to improve our position just outside of Gaza City.

We set up the Retik (heavy fire assistance) once again in a tall apartment building. Most of the platoons were to lead the assault from the beach. We advanced along the shore and kept our heads down, ducking behind a relatively high sand embankment. As a sharpshooter I crawled through the sand up to a chunk of concrete rubble and took a position. I fired at a nearby group of houses, scanning for enemy contacts in the windows and doorways. The mission was basically a beach-head version of the attack on Day 11.

Unlike Day 11, however, we advanced farther into Gaza itself and prepared for a series of day-time operations.

We continued moving forward and I tripped on an invisible wire. My initial thought was that it was fishing line attached to a booby trap. Sgt. Obama explained, however, that it was fiber-optic from all the rockets and missiles that the gunship helicopters had been launching. After the missile is fired there is a yarn-like ball of fiber-optic wiring inside the missile casing that unravels. This wire enables the pilot of the chopper to guide missile mid-air before impact. This wiring can sometimes extend for several kilometers. The helicopters had shot so many missiles that all of Gaza was covered with strong, thin, copper wire. Every night someone tripped and fell flat on their face from one of these wires.

As we were advancing Danny-Boy suddenly disappeared from view.

"Axel! Axel!" My Canadian friend heard a voice hiss at him seemingly from nowhere. "Don't just stand there! Help me!"

It was then that Axel saw the head and arm of Danny-Boy protruding from a hole in the ground. He had fallen into the entrance of a Hamas tunnel. Axel ran over to him and helped him out. He then reported the tunnel to the officers.

One of the greatest threats to Israel from the Gaza Strip is their massive and complex network of tunnels. These tunnels are used for weapons smuggling and storage. Even more frightening, however, is their usage to kidnap and/or kill soldiers. I heard the following account from a tank officer I know:

The tank officer, "Bob," was sitting in the cockpit of his Merkava tank with one of his crewmen, "Joe." They scanned the area for threats with thermal vision.

"Hey, Joe, do you see that on the thermal screen? There's something coming out of the ground over there."

"Yeah, Bob, I think it's a gopher or something."

"No... I don't think so. But... what is it?"

"Wait a minute, Joe, do you see that!"

Bob and Joe watched the thermal viewing screen. Just 50 meters in front of them a shovel popped out of a small hole in the ground. A human hand soon followed, groping the entrance of the tunnel and attempting to widen it.

Bob quickly and quietly waltzed over to the small hole. He tossed a hand grenade inside and ran.

And that was the end of a squad of Hamas terrorists. The tank officer and his crew inspected the site. They found a newly dug tunnel connected to the preexisting underground passage system. It was apparent that this Hamas team had the intention of kidnapping the tank crew just like Gilad Shalit. Unfortunately for them they made a mistake with the digging and surfaced just in front of the tank and their intended targets.

As Bugs Bunny would have said, they shouldn't have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

It was near dawn and we had entered even further into Gaza. I was already exhausted from a night of combat and no sleep. But there was more to come...