An Exclusive Interview with Nir Maman, a Special Forces Soldier in Gaza

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DAVE GORDON 

Nir Maman, 47, was born in Israel, and moved to Canada with his family as a young boy. He returned to Israel, where he served as a soldier in an elite unit and worked in counter terrorism before relocating to North America. He has more than two decades of distinguished experience in Israeli Military Special Operations, Police Tactical Operations, and High-Risk Security Operations. Immediately after the October 7th attacks, he flew to Israel and re-enlisted in the IDF. He was initially assigned to ensure the security of the residents of Hebron, as his team captured and arrested would-be terrorists. He says it is little known that another large-scale terror attack in Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron) was planned to coincide with the Gaza attack, but thankfully that massive attack was thwarted. Today, the IDF continues wider operations in the area to prevent violence. 

In March and May of this year, Nir served in Gaza in the IDF’s Special Forces Unit 906. 

Previously, Nir’s list of service includes his work at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) based at the Reichman University in Herzliya, Israel. There he served as Commander of the International Joint Forces Training Section. He developed and provided specialized training in counter-terror warfare, hostage rescue, and krav maga (an Israeli martial art designed for the IDF) for international Special Forces, including teams from the U.S. preparing for critical missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

In April 2009, Nir was honored with the Distinguished Service Award by IDF for his exceptional service. 

Community Magazine’s (CM) Interview with Nir Maman (NM) 

CM: How was it possible for the attacks on Oct. 7th to even happen? 

NM: There are many answers to that question. The threat assessment that was made by the Israeli Military Intelligence Division was that the South, the Gaza border, was not under a significant threat. You can go back three years prior to October 7th, and see there was a lot of activity, a lot of demonstrations and riots. There were kite bombs that the Arabs were sending over. We had a rash of the forest fires, all deliberate, incendiary terrorism.  

The intelligence apparatus had no reason to believe for a second that there was anything significant that would happen [in the South]. I don’t necessarily fault our intelligence apparatus. We’re still looking into answers. We were obviously in holiday mode since Simchat Torah was coming up, which always raises the concern level for attacks. Gaza is confined, secured by a border fence. We, of course, know there was a lot of overestimations put into the fence. However, from pre-attack pre-October 7th analysis, they figured the border fence was secured.  

The West Bank scenario is not like this. The majority of all of the Arab villages and towns (and there are tons of them) are relatively open. It’s easy access for these Arabs to be able to travel through the West Bank and get into Israeli territory. So, a lot of the resources were depleted from the South, and were relocated to the West Bank, to boost up the Israeli presence and the response capabilities should anything happen there. And so that was very evident. When October 7th happened, the South was an absolute mess, depleted of resources. Everyone was trying to understand what was going on.  

A lot of units and battalions and brigades understood that something was going on, and they just started on their own, to do the right thing, to gather up everybody and start to mobilize to the South. While that was happening, the response was also paralleled in Judea and Samaria.  

After October 7th, there was an elevated number of attacks that were still going on in Judea and Samaria. 

CM: What kind of attacks? 

NM: Molotov cocktails, stabbing attacks. We had several shooting attacks that took place, at all hours of the night, on a weekly basis. There was a Border Patrol police officer, a female, that drove her patrol vehicle over a landmine that was planted there, and it blew up. That was the first incident of that kind.  

CM: What was Gaza like? 

NM: Our main task was ultimately to take over various zones and buildings where a lot of terror activity was taking place. Our job would be to enter the buildings, clear them, and eliminate any terrorists, to search for tunnels, and to search for any intelligence that would give us indicators as to where hostages potentially were. I was invited to join a new unit being put together, of some of the most elite units in the IDF.  

CM: Can you give us an overview of being in battle? 

NM: I lost friends on October 7th and 8th, throughout the response to the invasion. Almost on a daily basis you would hear of soldiers being wounded or killed. And almost every single time that such an incident would occur, if you didn’t know the soldier, then you knew somebody who knew them.  

The “450 Company” went in to clear a building that was laced with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). The building blew up on them, three soldiers were killed, another 15 were severely injured. And so, there isn’t a day that goes by that somehow, you may have dodged a bullet. 

Khan Yunis specifically is known for all of its IEDs. Part of that is because when the IDF began its incursion into Gaza through the north, all the terrorist factions understood that Central Gaza would be next. And they began to booby trap a lot of Central Gaza – the buildings as well as the tunnels. And so, it was almost like playing Russian roulette. Whenever we would have to go into a building to clear it, we would hope that there were no booby traps. 

There’s a lot of smoke in the air [in Gaza], there’s constant explosions going on, constant bombings happening. You can smell the explosions. You can smell the lead. You right away know you’re in a different world.  

Before we actually hit a neighborhood or buildings that we were tasked with going into, we roll in with tanks and armored vehicles. Strategically we will fire various munitions and missiles into different parts of the building, such as the walls, to create openings that we will go in through, so we will not walk in through conventional doors or through windows. Those are the first places terrorists will hide explosives. 

Next, we shake up the building and create other explosions that will hopefully trigger the IEDs and cause them to blow up so that we don’t become the trigger mechanisms. 

CM: Here is something a lot of people are struggling with – what is the difference between regular Palestinians in Gaza, and Hamas?  

NM: The statistical fact – not my opinion, not the opinion of the IDF – (through more than enough surveys that have been carried out, and through a long process of information gleaned from the Palestinian population) we today sit at close to 80% of the Palestinian population fully supporting Hamas, and fully embodying the same ideology. Whenever a Palestinian terrorist would carry out a terror attack, slaughtering innocent Jewish lives, what happens in Gaza and in the West Bank? Celebrations. This is what their culture is, this is what their ideology is. Unfortunately, I think that it’s been too many generations of them having indoctrinated and radicalized themselves. They blame Jews for their circumstances. It’s their own doing, unfortunately. 

On Oct. 7th they came across the Nova Music Festival, which was a surprise to them. The second wave that came in, approximately a thousand terrorists whose job was to set up a response to the IDF, the police and the security forces. They set up at intersections, to take out power grids. The third wave was all of your regular Palestinians. They’re the ones that came in, did a lot of the savagery – the burning of the families, the beheading of the babies, a lot of the kidnapping. So those were not Hamas. Those were regular Palestinians. 

You see the Palestinian population dancing, celebrating, and hitting the bodies of the young women that were brought in. I want to believe that there’s good everywhere. But if we look at it, statistically, we probably have about 20% of the Palestinian population that I think are actually normal, and love their children more than they hate us. And I feel very bad for them.  

CM: During your recent service in Gaza, what have you discovered that was revealing? 

NM: There’s no place where you can wander in Gaza, and no building we take over, where you’re not finding some sort of connection to the terror nexus.  

Throughout buildings you find combat-related material, propaganda, fake children-related paraphernalia – that you can tell it’s not real, but is set up for the media, to spin their narrative, that IDF of have gone into a building, blew it up, and it was where children lived.  

The IDF went back into Shifa Hospital in early May. It was laced with hundreds and hundreds of terrorists. This also just goes to show you that the moment that we leave an area in Gaza, they are simply going to repopulate immediately.