Israeli air force combat aircraft have so far performed hundreds of missions over Gaza as part of the general effort to stop rockets being launched into Israel. The air strikes also aim to suppress ground fire aimed at the Israeli Defense Forces ground units that entered Gaza when the aerial campaign also became a ground operation.
In parallel, the air force’s utility helicopters are performing medical evacuation missions, many of them under heavy fire from the ground.
In the 14 days since the beginning of Operation “Protective Edge” and four days since the order was given to ground forces to enter the Gaza Strip, the Israeli air force’s 669 search and rescue unit and the transport helicopter squadrons have been working around the clock.
Soldiers from the 669 unit are routinely deployed to various air force bases to be on call, but since the beginning of the operation, these teams have been reinforced with additional forces that work intensively in the Gaza Strip.
Sikorsky UH-60 and CH-53 helicopters are performing medical evacuation missions around the clock.
The 669 unit is a combat rescue unit that is trained for a variety of missions. In conflicts, the unit’s soldiers are flown to different locations to perform mainly complicated rescue missions, very frequently with the help of fire from combat helicopters to suppress enemy fire that can endanger the medical evacuation or rescue mission.
Over the densely populated Gaza strip where almost every house is a source of small arms fire, operation of the helicopters is very complicated and in many cases requires suppression fire from dedicated ground forces.