An Israeli-American paramedic has laid bare the horror of what he witnessed on the front line of the Hamas terror attack – where three of his colleagues were slaughtered as they desperately tried to save people’s lives.
Staten Island-born Ari Yonatan, 32, who now lives in Israel and works for Israel’s national ambulance and rescue service Magen David Adom (MAD), responded within an hour of the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel to help the wounded.
Yonatan, who was on his day off, said he heard the rockets overhead and called his dispatcher before rushing as close to the scene as he could get.
He said his dispatcher told him there were ‘casualties, both dead and injured everywhere … more than 300 that he needs us to respond to.’
Yonatan told AlertContent.com: ‘There was chaos everywhere. It was like a horror movie. The wounded were coming from everywhere and dead people too.’
Staten Island-born Ari Yonatan, 32, a paramedic with Magen David Adom, Israel’s national ambulance and rescue service
A field hospital where the wounded were treated before being transported to a hospital
The army set up a field hospital to treat the injured, many near death. The victims were transported from various regions as the country was under attack.
Yonatan, along with his peers tried to stay safe as bombs and rockets were launched around them and terrorists infiltrated regions such as Kibbutz Be’eri, where more than 80 people were slaughtered, and Re’im, the site of the Supernova musical festival where nearly 300 were massacred.
‘I treated people from the kibbutzm, my own city, neighboring cities, civilians, soldiers, police officers, and people who attended the music festival,’ he said.
One of those critically injured was a 50-year-old man from Kibbutz Be-eri, whose wife and children had been murdered in front of him.
The father, who miraculously survived, was hiding in a safe room with his family when Hamas terrorists entered, shot his wife and children and set their house on fire.
‘He had gunshot wounds, loss of blood, shrapnel from the grenades, smoke inhalation. I was able to resuscitate him and keep him conscious before I transported him to the hospital,’ Yonatan said.
He also treated two young girls, still dressed in their pajamas, who were burned after they were hit by a grenade. One still had a grenade in her night clothes.
‘A lot of people we encountered throughout the day would have died if we weren’t there to treat and transport them,’ he said.
After working seven days straight, Yonatan said: ‘I have to put a up a shield mentally. Turn myself into a robot because if you attach yourself emotionally to everything you can’t function. It is more than our brain and our hearts are able to contain.’
Aharon Chaimov, 25, who worked as a senior EMT for MADA, lost his life after he was shot in the stomach by terrorists as he was driving to help the wounded in his city
Amit Mann, 22, was working in the infirmary at kibbutz Be’eri when she was killed by Hamas
Aviya Hatzroni, 69, a volunteer ambulance driver, and fellow paramedic was murdered by Hamas
IDF soldier and MDA volunteer Lior Levy was killed in a battle in the Gaza Envelope
MDA volunteer Staff Sergeant (res.), EMT Saar Margolis, was killed in action in Operation “Iron Swords” while serving as a member of the security standby team in Kissufim
Shir Biton, age 19. IDF soldier and MDA volunteer, EMT Shir Biton was killed in battle in the Western Negev Communities
Since the Hamas attack on Israeli territory evacuation teams have been working round-the-clock to transport the wounded to hospitals by helicopters, ambulances, MICUs and special vehicles.
Many of the responding units found themselves targeted by the terrorists who ambushed them on their way to treat the injured.
Yonatan said the region is desperately short of paramedics. Some of his teammates killed in action, have returned to the army or were trapped in their homes and unable to help the injured because their city was under attack.
‘We are very short on manpower,’ said the married father of four.
‘I have friends and loved ones who were murdered that day [October 7] and people I worked with.’
He shared that three of his colleagues were killed by Hamas while racing to help those in need.
Aharon Chaimov, 25, who worked as a senior EMT, lost his life during the early days of the bloodshed.
‘He was shot in his stomach and killed while he was driving the ambulance on his way to treat the wounded in his home of Ofakim when terrorists infiltrated the city,’ Yonatan said.
He said Chaimov wasn’t on call that day because it was a holiday but was called by a dispatcher to respond to a shooting attack before anyone understood the gravity of what was happening.
‘He was murdered on the way to save people lives by the worst terrorists imaginable,’ Yonatan said.
He described his co-worker as someone who dedicated his life to ‘working on the ambulance diligently,’ and added that he will miss him dearly.
‘He was always the first to volunteer. He never complained. His smile lit up a room. He was a good, giving person and loved by everyone.’
Another friend lost during the terror attack was paramedic Amit Mann, 22.
Mann was working in the infirmary at the kibbutz Be’eri when she was killed.
‘She was treating patients at the same time terrorists were going house to house butchering families, burning them alive, forcing them to inhale smoke in their safe rooms, gunning them down,’ he said.
‘She was on the phone with her sister and then told her [sister], ”They’re here!” he said. ‘The terrorists had already broke in and all her sister heard were gunshots… and that was it.’
Yonatan said the two trained together and she also led a course for young female paramedics.
‘She was a very special girl,’ he added. ‘I spoke to her mother when I went to comfort her the other day. Though she was 22, she had this youthfulness to her personality besides being very professional, committed and intelligent.’
A female paramedic inside the ambulance treating and comforting one of the casualties
Israeli’s National Emergency Medical Services are on site during the attack
Israeli rescue teams on their radios getting reports as as they wait for the wounded
The devastation on the street as Magen David Adom workers stand by
Aviya Hatzroni, 69, a volunteer ambulance driver, was another colleague murdered by terrorists.
Yonatan described Hatrzoni, who had recently lost his wife, like a grandfather and father figure to the team.
With affection, he recalled the tales he would share with the younger paramedics, ‘story after story of everything in the sun’.
Yonatan said he lived in kibbutz Be’eri, where nearly a hundred innocent people, including children and babies, were brutally massacred.
‘Knowing his personality, if he had the ability to respond he would have, he said. ‘What exactly happened to him is unknown.’
Others who were killed include 19-year-old Lior Levy, an IDF soldier and MDA volunteer. She died in a battle in the Gaza Envelope, according to EMS1.
MDA volunteer Staff Sergeant (res.), EMT Saar Margolis, was killed in action in Operation ‘Iron Swords’ while serving as a member of the security standby team in Kissufim.
IDF soldier and MDA volunteer, EMT Shir Biton, 19, was killed in battle in the Western Negev Communities.
‘Too many people we lost that day who were doing nothing but trying to save the lives of people,’ Yonatan said.
He told AlertContent.com that ‘once the war is over and we [Israel] declares complete victory over our enemy than I will seek therapy and deal with the PTSD that I am definitely going to be suffering from.’
Rescue teams carry out a wounded civilian by helicopter near the southern city of Sderot
Lines of ambulances parked outside of Sderot, one the areas under attack, ready to evacuate the wounded
A rescue worker is on the ground trying to shield himself from the gunfire
Daniel Pollack, MDA’s training center coordinator told EMS1 that MDA is deployed on the highest alert all over the country and is ready to respond on any front – along the Northern border, Eastern borders, in the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip and on the home front.
Since war began, medical personnel have used up equipment worth tens of millions of dollars.
But Pollack said many of their ambulances have been damaged or demolished, and they have lost a massive amount of medical equipment, including stretchers, bleeding control devices and blood collection equipment.
He also told the news outlet that MDA paramedics are still being targeted.
On October 13, a rocket fired from Gaza hit near the fence of the MDA station in the city of Sderot, that destroyed four ambulances. Additionally, nine MDA ambulances and one medicycle were hit by shrapnel.