Female Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza
Marom (right) and Eliora (left), soldiers of the Bardelas battalion, during an exercise along the Israel-Egypt border near Har Harif, east of the city of Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel, January 18. Photo: AFP

Marom, 21, has just spent two weeks fighting in Gaza, one of the first female Israeli soldiers to participate in the campaign in this strip of land.

The ground offensive campaign that Israel has been conducting in the Gaza Strip for nearly 4 months represents a change in the country’s army’s attitude towards women.

“For all the female soldiers fighting in Gaza, this is their first time in combat,” Marom said. “We see a change in the military’s attitude, as they accept women participating in combat.”

Israel enforces a strict military service regime, requiring all citizens over the age of 18, including women, to enlist, except for a few exempted cases.

Israeli men must serve the army for two years and eight months and women for two years, but girls are often assigned simple tasks such as military medicine and switchboard operations and are not allowed to participate in combat activities.

During the early stages of the war, Israeli public opinion was outraged after media reported that IDF commanders ignored warnings from young female soldiers guarding the border with Gaza several months before the Hamas attack.

“It was a big mistake, I don’t know how it happened,” Eliora, 20, said.

But now, the girls say the military has recognized their role. Shana, a 23-year-old female battalion commander, said the war proved that women could take on greater roles.

“At first, when male soldiers saw our locks of hair sticking out of their helmets, they found it strange. But in the end, we were ready to fight and trained to carry out that mission,” she said.

According to data from the Hamas health agency, Israel’s offensive campaign on Gaza has killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians, of which 70% are women, children and teenagers.

“We want to ensure the safety of civilians in Gaza as much as possible, but this is war,” Marom explained.

“Everything was destroyed,” she added after being deployed to Khan Younis, a large city in southern Gaza, where female soldiers discovered a Hamas tunnel.

The Israeli military said 194 soldiers have died since conducting ground attacks on Gaza in late October 2023. Noa Marciano, 19 years old, an Israeli female soldier taken hostage on October 7, died in Gaza. Hamas said an Israeli air strike killed her.

Israeli female soldiers exercise along the Israel-Egypt border near Har Harif, east of the city of Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel, January 18.  Photo: AFP

Israeli female soldiers exercise along the Israel-Egypt border near Har Harif, east of the city of Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel, January 18. Photo: AFP

According to data from the Israel Democracy Institute, the number of women participating in combat missions increased by 350% from 2013 to 2017, but by 2022, they will make up only 17% of the IDF’s combat force.

Marom, a soldier in the Bardelas battalion, said many sisters and friends asked her about fighting in the army. “I see more and more Israeli girls wanting to join combat units when they turn 18,” she said.

The female soldier refused to speculate about the future after the war. “When we win, which we will definitely win, then we will have time to plan our lives,” she expressed.