Operation Yoav In the
Israel War of
opened the way to the Negev (southern Israel) which had been blocked by the invading Egyptian army.
This excerpt from "Eyes of the Beholder" by Col. David Terperson tells of the part of the Negev Beasts commando in this
very large operation. The Negev beasts performed commando raids and intelligence in operation Yoav, and participated in the capture of
Beersheva in October of 1948. For general background on the operation, see
After being re-equipped, the whole brigade, including the 9th Battalion and my jeep company, moved South, and
sometime around the 6th of October (my birthday), we started to go through the Egyptian lines that cut the Negev off
from the Israeli side. Our jeep company had orders not to speak to anyone, as we passed Bedouin camps and Egyptian
positions, thinking that we were Egyptian units, we were welcomed in Arabic. We started our trip back after 12 o’clock
at night, no lights, traveling as a convoy. We managed to get through the Egyptian lines without any incident, and
continued all the way down to Kibbutz Gvulot, which is on the Beersheba Wadi. We hid our jeeps and other transport
vehicles in the Wadi, where we slept. In the early morning, Egyptian Spitfires attacked us, but because of the zigzag of
the Wadi and the high walls we were protected, except for one command car which was hit. We all survived. We moved out
and prepared ourselves for the next part of our actions. We always had to be on the lookout for Egyptian Spitfires
despite an official ceasefire. In fact, the ceasefire did not really exist in the Negev. The Egyptians did not attack us
again nor did they try to take control of any more territory. Some of the jeeps patrolled the water pipeline leading to
Kibbutzim in the Negev to protect it from Bedouins trying to blow it up.
Operation “Yoav” opened up the road to the cut-off Negev. The Jeep Company took part in the raids (shown by the
dotted lines) and in the capture of Beersheba.
After returning to the Negev, we carried out a commando raid by night from the Egyptian railway line running from
Khan-Yunis to Gaza. We cleared the mines in the Wadi between Egyptian fortified positions on the Gaza strip border, went
through with two armored cars and 12 jeeps following, till we hit the Khan-Yunis-Gaza road, where our armored cars
ambushed Egyptian vehicles on the road, shot them up and destroyed them. The 12 jeeps lined up, we put our jeeps into
four wheel drive, as we had to cross heavy sand dunes. It was a lovely moonlit night. I was driving in the middle. The
Egyptians’ camp started firing at us. All 13 jeeps lined up in a straight line next to each other, approximately 10
meters apart, and started moving forward firing our MG34 machine guns. The going was tough through the sand dunes. I
will never forget the two jeeps on either side of me, shooting with tracer bullets. As we went through, we discovered
more and more dead Egyptians and dead donkeys. The Egyptians had all run away. After a while, the back gunner started
firing over my head, the empty shells falling on me. The noise from the firing guns, the flashes – all together was like
a big fireworks show in the dark. It was a beautiful sight. I was driving in the middle of the twelve jeeps and had a
beautiful view on both sides of the display. With all the noise, excitement of being in action and the fireworks display
your fear disappears and you start doing what you were trained to do.
The going was tough, the sand was heavy, so it was decided that we could not make the railway line in time to get
back to our lines, so we turned around and went back with our back machine-gunners firing towards the Egyptians all the
time. We shot at a couple of the Egyptian trucks we had ambushed on the road and their soldiers ran away. We returned to
our lines before daybreak. After getting back to our side, all the tension and excitement of the raid released itself in
joking, laughing and talking about events. It took us a while to fall asleep, even though we were exhausted. The fear
was there, but by being busy fighting we were able to completely control it. It was a very exciting experience. I
believe the main idea of our raids behind their lines was to force the Egyptians to bring reinforcements to protect
their flank around Gaza.
In the coming days, we also raided Egyptian positions opposite Kibbutz Be’eri and around Rafah. The raids consisted
of jeeps coming close to the Egyptians’ positions, firing machine-guns and then driving away. We fired mortar shells at
their positions and the Egyptians would open up with everything they had, enabling us to see their machine-gun
positions. Again, these raids forced the Egyptians to move part of their forces from the North to reinforce and protect
the areas in the southern Gaza strip where our raids took place. We even took our heavy Bezer machine-guns that could
fire over the horizon at the Egyptian positions opposite the Gaza strip. As usual, being very nervous, they would open
up with everything they had, causing the Egyptians to move troops again from the Northern parts towards Gaza and the
South. Our next objective was the capture of Beersheba and the opening up of the Negev with the Givati Brigade, together
with the 8th Armored Commando Brigade. Two days later, on the 21st October, the 9th Palmach Battalion of the Negev
Brigade and the French Commando, with the assistance of the 89th Armored Half-track Battalion, attacked and captured
Beersheba. I will describe this later in my story. Up until the capture of Beersheba, we continued training and
attacking Egyptian positions all along the Gaza strip.
"Negev Beasts" (Hayot Hanegev) was the original and informal name of the 9th battalion Jeep company
motorized commando of the Palmach Negev Brigade (Hativat Hanegev), a unique military force that played a key role in liberating the Negev in the
Israel War of Independence.
Eyes of the Beholder relates some of the exploits of this little jeep unit, composed of Machal (overseas) volunteers from all
over the world, as well as young Israeli Palmachniks like Avraham Adan (Bren), later General Bren, Mordechai (Motta) Gur
and Haim Bar Lev. These are the men who conquered Beersheva and who raised the famous ink flag in Eilat. The book
includes priceless photos and maps. It is a valuable first person account of what really happened, as well as a memorial
to the Machal volunteers and Israeli soldiers who fought to defend Israel in 1948.
Colonel David (Migdal) Teperson, author of Eyes of the Beholder, grew up in the South African veldt, lived in
the Kalahari desert, and learned the ways of the wild from age 13. His learned survival skills were aided by his 6' 6"
frame and restless iron-clad constitution. He volunteered to defend the new state of Israel, serving first in the
Alexandroni Brigade and later in the Negev Beasts in 1948, and fighting in every war of Israel. These excerpts from the book are presented to honor the Machal
volunteers and others who served in the Israel war of Independence and to give a close-up look at the history of that
war and at the young men and women who made the state of Israel possible. The patch at right is the symbol of the
Motorized Commando Unit.
Eyes of the Beholder is
copyright © by David Teperson, 2008. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, without permission. Material appearing in these Web pages is reproduced by permission. To
obtain printed copies of the entire book, contact Colonel David Teperson, P.O. BOX 9590, KFAR SHMARYAHU ISRAEL. 46910
TEL: 972-9-9582718 FAX: 972-9-9560673 E-MAIL: DAVE_TEP(at)NETVISION.NET.IL
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