Oz Tzemach was a tank commander in the Second Lebanon War and he and his crew were killed in action on August 12, 2006 when they sustained a direct hit from an anti-tank missile as they sought to rescue comrades under enemy fire in broad daylight.
Oz and his three crew members were killed instantly in their final mission and they showed exemplary courage as they sought to help others for which they were all decorated posthumously.
Maccabi Tel Aviv has commemorated Oz’s memory and has named its Boys C South team in his honour, it is known as Maccabi Tel Aviv “Oz.” Until his enlistment for military service, Oz played basketball for Maccabi Reut, whose colours are also yellow and blue. He and his family have long been followers of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
This is the story of the Oz Crew as recounted on the web site to his memory, http://www.oztzemach.co.il/Oz-Crew-English.html
Shalom and welcome to the Oz Crew memorial site here in Kibbutz Ma’ayan Baruch.
The crewmen of tank 3 Bet, later known as Oz Crew, fought in the Second Lebanon War. They were part of Company Gimmel of Battalion 53 that is part of the 188 Barak Brigade.
The tank commander was Oz Tzemach from Reut, the gunner was Yinon Yigal Nisan from Ma’aleh Adumim, the driver was Dan Broyer from Bet Hilel and the loader–radioman was Haran Lev from Ma’ayan Baruch, where this monument has been established.
On the morning of July 12th 2006, the Hezbollah terror organization launched a bombardment of Katushya rocket fire over the northern communities in Israel and IDF outposts along the Lebanese border with Israel. Under the cover of this assault, Hezbollah attacked an IDF patrol moving along the border fence, killing three soldiers and kidnapping two others.
Following these events, the Government of Israel declared war against the Hezbollah that was later referred to as the Second Lebanon War. In the first stages of the war, the IDF attacked various enemy targets all over Lebanon using only air force and artillery units. Nevertheless, the Hezbollah continued firing rockets and missiles against civilian targets across northern Israel.
The next stage of fighting involved the gradual use of both regular and reserve IDF ground forces that penetrated into south Lebanon.
Battalion 53 was at that time deployed in the area of Maccabim and it began preparing to enter the fray.
On August 6, Company Gimmel received its first mission, to make contact with Battalion 75 of the 7th brigade in order to defend a logistics route. In the following days, the company was positioned in a fortified outpost near the village of Ainata in the vicinity of Bint Jbeil.
From this outpost, the company carried out various actions, including opening routes, conducting ambushes, patrolling the area and performing complex evacuation missions. There was also success in striking many terrorists.
On Saturday, August 12, the battalion was ordered to advance to Shekif A-Nimmel ridge to provide cover to the advancing Golani infantry brigade who were closing in on the town of Tibnin.
The battalion, located in Ainata, began moving at 16:00 hours with Company Aleph leading and Company Gimmel following. The rest of the battalion was behind them.
Maneuvering was difficult along the hilly terrain and with no alternative route. Just before nightfall, a heavy bombardment of anti tank missiles rained over Company Gimmel from the direction of the village of Kunin. The company commander gave the order to advance and seek cover and it was then that a missile hit tank 3 Aleph that was moving in front of tank 3 Bet, the Oz Crew tank.
The tank’s firing mechanism was damaged and was inoperable. The tank commander suffered wounds and was incapacitated. The company commander then gave the order to retreat but just then his own tank overturned which also put it out of action. The battalion commander and the commander of platoon 3 who were in the region rushed to help.
The loader in tank 3 Aleph, which had been hit, replaced the injured commander and took command of the tank but he struggled to move the tank backwards. Oz Tzemach, the commander of tank 3 Bet, observed the tank in difficulty and remained to assist the commander by providing cover with live fire.
Oz Crew found a sheltered position along the slope thereby giving tank 3 Aleph the possibility to pass. As tank 3 Aleph passed tank 3 Bet, it stopped briefly to receive instructions from Oz.
Tank 3 Aleph continued moving backwards, while tank 3 Bet continued to cover its movement with heavy fire.
Over the radio, the voice of Oz Tzemach was heard delivering his last message: “Commander, this is 3 Bet, last one moving.”
A while later, the deputy company commander left the fortified outpost at Ainata together with a crew of engineers and a D9 bulldozer to rescue the company commander’s damaged tank. On their way, the bulldozer operator informed that a tank was on fire. When the deputy battalion company commander and his men arrived at the site, they found that tank 3 Bet had been hit and that the entire crew had been killed.
Company Gimmel continued its withdrawal and the four me of Oz Crew were taken for burial.
Two days later, on Monday August 14, a ceasefire was declared and the IDF began a gradual withdrawal from Lebanon. The company continued to operate in Lebanon until the final retreat on October 1.
The Oz Crew, who managed to save the lives of others, all received posthumous decorations for bravery from OC Northern Command and their citation award reads:
“This decoration is given for commitment, fighting spirit, personal example, professionalism, camaraderie and fearlessness.”
The Second Lebanon War lasted for 34 days and cost the lives of 121 Israeli soldiers.
May all their memories be blessed.