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How a retired Israeli general saved his family during the Hamas attack

Retired Israeli general rescued family
Retired IDF major general recounts rescue of family during Hamas attack | 60 Minutes 13:25

A retired major general with the Israel Defence Forces and his wife grabbed a pistol, jumped into their jeep and headed south to rescue their son's family during Hamas' deadly incursion

Noam and Gali Tibon rescued survivors of the music festival massacre and helped wounded Israeli soldiers on the way. Hours after leaving his home in Tel Aviv, Noam Tibon battled gunmen in Nahal Oz and saved his family. 

Amir Tibon and Miri Bernovsky-Tibon and their children are now living with Noam and Gali, thankful to be alive, but wondering what went wrong on Oct. 7. 

Oct. 7, 2023: 6 a.m.

Amir, a senior correspondent at the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz, his social worker wife Miri, and their two young daughters lived in a kibbutz. Miri heard something around 6 a.m. that day: the whistle of a rocket. She got her husband up and they ran to the home's safe room, their girls' bedroom.  

The safe room is built out of a special, strong concrete designed to withstand attacks from rockets and mortars. 

"Most families, that's where they put the kids to sleep at night," Amir said. "Because then if there's a siren at 6 a.m., like what Miri just described, the parents run to the children and not the other way around."

Miri Bernovsky-Tibon and Amir Tibon
Kibbutz residents Miri Bernovsky-Tibon and Amir Tibon  60 Minutes

They heard the sound of gunfire once inside. Then they heard people speaking in Arabic. 

Video shot and posted by Hamas shows the infiltrators shooting up the kibbutz. It includes a picture of them actually leaning on Amir and Miri's house. 

"They shot ammunition through the living room window, and we just heard that," Amir said. "And it sounded like they're inside the house."

The parents urged their daughters, 1 and 3, to be quiet. 

Amir texted his colleagues at the newspaper and, realizing the magnitude of the attack, knew no one was coming. So he called his father. 

"All over the kibbutz right now, people are crying for help and nobody's coming," Amir recalled telling his dad. "And this, this may be, may be it."

Grandparents to the rescue

Noam Tibon, a retired major general, was the senior commander of the Israeli paratroopers. He led forces in the West Bank and at the border with Lebanon. When Amir called, he and his wife Gali jumped into action and headed south to rescue their family. 

"We were in a situation that there is no government, there is no military, only citizens," Gali said. 

Gali drove at top speed. Her husband texted anyone who could help while keeping in touch with his son. Noam advised Amir to stay put and keep quiet. 

Noam and Gali were stopped at a checkpoint and told they could go no further. They tried to talk to the officers to no avail, so they bypassed them and headed into the fields. 

Gali and Noam Tibon
Gali and Noam Tibon 60 Minutes

They hit another checkpoint.

"They stopped us and I said, 'You know what? We are going. It's our son. It's our granddaughters. If you want you can shoot me. We are going,'" Gali said. 

The grandparents couldn't believe what they were seeing as they drew closer to the kibbutz. 

"Burning cars, bodies on the road," Noam said. "And then there were a man and a woman running, rushing to us, running. And we stopped. And they said, 'Save us.'"

Noam and Gali's first rescue 

The people that stopped the grandparents were Bar and Lior Matsner. They'd been at the music festival massacre that Saturday, where at least 260 people were killed. Thousands were fleeing, some on foot and others, like the Matsners, in their cars. 

The Matsners car was shot up and disabled, but they were able to escape. They hid and covered themselves with piles of leaves. The Matsners called for help, but no one answered. They waited for hours. 

They made a run for the road when they saw an opportunity and spotted the determined grandparents racing south in their jeep. The Tibons stopped and helped the Matsners to a safe zone, even as their own family was getting desperate in Nahal Oz.

Lior and Bar Matsner
Lior and Bar Matsner 60 Minutes

As they stayed in their safe room, Amir said he could hear neighbors being dragged off. Livestreamed video shows gunmen holding one family that lived nearby captive. 

It's assumed that family is now being held captive in Gaza

"The Hamas terrorists, I mean, there were hundreds of them around and inside the kibbutz," Amir said. "The numbers are impossible to comprehend."

The second rescue 

Noam and Gali came upon a group of soldiers as they got back on the road to the kibbutz. One of them agreed to join them to help. Worried about the danger, they agreed to drop Gali off at a roadside shelter and pressed on without her. 

"On the road ahead of them, they see a military Jeep ambushed by Hamas and several soldiers there are killed and injured," Amir said. "My father and this brave soldier who joined him get out of the car and start fighting."

Two Israeli soldiers were wounded during the firefight and needed to be evacuated to a hospital. Noam knew that meant his family would have to wait — again. 

"Otherwise they will bleed to death," Noam said. "So I said, OK —  I'm taking them, you know, because no way that they are going to die there."

He brought the wounded soldiers to where Gali was, and she helped take them to a hospital while the retired general turned back to rescue his son. 

Rescue at Nahal Oz

Noam joined a group of Israeli special forces once he arrived. They went house to house, methodically clearing out the Hamas militants. Noam said Hamas was in control, and he and the soldiers with him needed to stay focused. 

"Okay, you have to clean one house, and then go to the next house, and then go to the next house because if you run too fast, they will shoot you from the behind," Noam said. "And it takes time."

At that point, his family had been stranded in the safe room for hours. The cellphone had died. They didn't know where Noam was. They could hear close exchanges of gunfire. 

"No electricity, no food, two girls that are the biggest heroes in the world, keeping quiet," Amir said.

The retired general finally reached his family's home at 4 p.m. after an hour of door-to-door combat. He went to the window and knocked. 

"We hear my father's voice. He says something like, you know, 'Open. Open,'" Amir said. "And Galia, our older daughter, she says, 'Saba Higiya,' grandpa is here. And that's, that's the first time we started crying."

Family left with questions, frustrations 

Days later, the family is left wondering how the devastating events of the day were allowed to happen. 

"It's the biggest failure in the history of the state of Israel," Amir said. "Civilians by the hundreds were being massacred by terrorists and nobody came."

They question where the police and military were and why a grandfather had to come to the rescue. 

"I hope all of Israel is asking this question," Miri said. 

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