Photo Credit: United Hatzalah
IDF soldiers and United Hatzalah volunteers bring an injured patient to one of United Hatzalah's emergency medevac helicopters on the Gaza border, October 7, 2023.

United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Rabbi Chaim Sassi, was seriously injured on Saturday morning by a Hamas terrorist who had infiltrated Sderot shortly after the fighting in the city began. Rabbi Sassi, who serves as the regional Rabbi for the organization in and around Sderot, was attempting to rescue a badly wounded police officer when he was shot by a Hamas sniper who had taken up position inside the city’s police station.

According to Yaakov Bar Yochai, another United Hatzalah volunteer who was an eyewitness to the event, the incident unfolded as follows. “On Saturday, after the fighting broke out in Sderot, I was driving to the location of a medical clinic where I was sent inside Sderot to treat several injured. I was unaware that there were terrorists already inside the city. As I was driving I passed Rabbi Sassi who was assisting another injured person and he waved at me telling me that he had it under control and to keep going. But he also warned me that there were terrorists around and that I needed to be careful.

Rabbi Chaim Sassi / United Hatzalah

“I saw bodies lying on the street and I very quickly understood that this was a very serious and dangerous situation. I saw the jeep with the gun on the roof that was so highly publicized on social media later. I reached an area of relative safe cover, and I found a security officer who was badly injured and in need of medical attention, as well as the town’s security chief who was also injured. We came under fire and were pinned down. I saw another security officer who had been shot in the head and was bleeding profusely on the opposite side of the street, but whoever tried to reach him was immediately shot by a sniper who had positioned himself on the roof of the police station. I asked the injured commanding officer, ‘Let me go to him, I’m an EMT I can help save him.’

“The officer told me that there was a sniper on the roof and that I shouldn’t go because I would be shot myself. A short time later, Rabbi Chaim arrived and quickly saw the scenario. The officer lay dying across the street and we couldn’t reach him. Rabbi Chaim began to plead with the commander, ‘Lay down cover fire, I’ll go to him.’ They laid down cover fire and as soon as Rabbi Chaim rushed out, he was shot in the leg. He ran for cover behind a garbage can and received another shot in the face. He began to lose a lot of blood quickly.

“This was a close friend of mine, our rabbi. He put his life on the line to save another and now he was bleeding out in front of me. He managed to reach the shot officer, but there was nothing that he could do for him, the man was beyond help. But Rabbi Chaim wasn’t. In addition, other officers lay injured nearby. I began to tie water bottles and medical supplies to rocks to throw to Rabbi Chaim so that he could treat himself and others, bandage himself to slow his blood flow, and help them as best he could.

“He was changing bandages quickly as they all were drenched with blood too fast. I understood that if we didn’t get him and the other officers out of there soon, they would likely die then and there. We ran to a nearby truck that we found with medical supplies and threw it to him. There were no ambulances in the city because the security forces were only allowing armored ambulances to enter the city due to the security threat. I told the commanding officer, ‘This man is not dying here, let’s get him out and I’ll take him in my car to the hospital.’

“The officer said, we will gather a team, lay down a strong wave of cover fire, and get him as well as two other injured security officers out of the danger zone. They gathered a large group of forces, laid down a lot of cover fire, and the sniper stopped firing for a moment long enough for us to get Rabbi Chaim and two other injured officers out of there and into my car.

“I drove the three injured men to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon as fast as I could. There they underwent life-saving treatment. I cannot say enough about what Rabbi Chaim did. He deserves the highest medal of honor for risking his life to save others.”

Rabbi Chaim Sassi is currently in serious but stable condition in Barzilai Hospital. He is just one of the many first responders who were injured in yesterday’s attacks.

Please pray for his speedy recovery. His Hebrew name is Harav Chaim Ben Tamar.


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