24 Season Zero: Day of Reckoning

Chapter 6

12:15 PM - SCHOOL ROOFTOP

After securing the auditorium, Bilal went into a maintenance room in the backstage area and climbed a metal ladder leading to the roof. He helped three more terrorists up as they went into the Middle Eastern sunshine that was bright even in December. There were police and military vehicles on the scene entering the school grounds from the surrounding neighborhood. Bilal and his men took positions on the rooftop, setting up two machine gun emplacements. Bilal also got a rocket launcher ready and scanned the roof for other possible defensive positions and patrol routes.

"Get those bastards to pull back!" Bilal said, firing a rocket that sailed out of its launcher and made its way across the soccer field in a matter of seconds, impacting an IDF Humvee. Several soldiers ran from the wreckage, entering the soccer field and firing wildly at the rooftop, trying to pick off the terrorists. Some of the IDF personnel managed to get a few shots in, pocketing the wall of the school with bullet holes. The terrorists unleashed a merciless barrage of heavy machine gun fire. One by one the soldiers dropped like flies, pieces of torn flesh flying in all directions. The wounded were quickly shot again and killed without hesitation.

"Stay back or we kill the hostages!" Malik shouted. "Pull back now!" More police units were arriving and Malik unleashed another rocket. This one made a direct hit on a police van, completely blocking off the residential street approaching the school. The machine guns on the high school roof continued to fire, cutting down a number of police and soldiers as they retreated away from the school grounds.

GIVITAYIM DISTRICT

Lance Sizemore made his way to the top floor of the American headquarters building, one of the easternmost buildings on the military compound. He was the best sniper on the team and knew that the rockets were coming from the east. Henderson sent him to set up position right here while Henderson himself, Darius Greene and other American soldiers drove out of the main gates, heading to the street where Osama and his men had barricaded themselves.

Aziz laughed as he aimed his rocket again, this time from a 7th floor apartment balcony. Using human shields was a lot more effective here in Tel Aviv than in Gaza City, he had discovered. The Israelis would have leveled this entire block if it was in Gaza, but obviously they and their American friends valued Israeli blood much more than Muslim blood. So now the attack continued. He looked in satisfaction at the American flag that had been destroyed in a rocket strike on the headquarters building.

Lance saw the flash as Aziz fired another rocket, this one hitting an aircraft hangar. He adjusted the scope on his sniper rifle and saw the Muslim holding the launcher. Lance squeezed the trigger and Aziz's head disappeared in a puff of red mist. He quickly took down two other terrorists before they could respond. A final terrorist made a run for it but Lance predicted his move and shot him through a window, taking him down. The attacks from the east ceased.

An Israeli surveillance drone from the Ashdod navy base flew over the Givitayim neighborhood, zeroing in on Osama and his men. One of the terrorists was down but Osama and two more remained. The drone sent real time footage and GPS coordinates to Henderson, Greene and others in their squad, who entered one of the buildings, a mixed use commercial-residential structure from the opposite side.

Osama heard the drone and looked up and only saw a gray blob up in the sky. He fired on it in a rage. "You cowards!" The drone was unarmed, but Henderson and Darius appeared in a window above their position, opening fire. The two terrorists next to Osama were killed instantly. Osama looked in shock as his fellow jihadis fell to the street. He turned around and fired up at the window but Darius was already in a different position. Osama scanned the building, but another American soldier opened fire from a different floor, sending Osama on his way to meet Allah.

HIGH SCHOOL MAIN OFFICE

By now, Nakkash's men were in full control of the school and the American hostages had been herded into the upper level of the auditorium and the ones in the cafeteria sent to the gym, which was closer to the auditorium instead of the far side of the building. Khattab and Farad helped some of their comrades wire explosives all around the auditorium and underneath the gym bleachers and along the walls of the gym. Several of the Islamic terrorists also wore suicide vests. Several men haven't checked in yet, but Nakkash felt confident.

"The communications with Jerusalem should be set up, emir," Khattab said, playing around with the damaged electronic equipment. "The IDF is trying to speak to us plus the police outside. I conveyed to them your demands to be on with the Prime Minister."

Nakkash pushed a secretary's dead body out of the way and engaged the school's internal PA system. He spoke in Arabic-accented English, since he knew no Hebrew and Israelis do learn English in school at an early age. "I need everyone's attention right now! We have taken over this building in the name of Hamas. I hope we have demonstrated the consequences of resisting us. All the soldiers stationed here are dead. All of your teachers and adult staff are dead. If you resist or try to escape, you will die too. My men have complete control of this school and have wired the building with explosives. Each and every one of us is prepared to die. How long your ordeal is, and what happens at the end of it depends on your government and how much it values your lives over its policies of imperialism and colonialism."

DEFENSE MINISTRY, JERUSALEM

United States Ambassador Scott Cornett's diplomatic helicopter landed on the grounds of the Israeli Defense Ministry twenty five minutes after it had picked him up from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. He saw the smoke rising from the various attacks that rocked Tel Aviv. He had been in a meeting with American corporate executives when he was interrupted by an urgent summons with classified details. Given the day's events, he knew this was not going to be good. A large Israeli security team greeted the helicopter as the rotors came to a stop. Snipers were set up all over the building and the military presence on the streets of Jerusalem was heavier than usual. Ambassador Cornett had been in Israel for 3 years already and was cynical. The political appointees got both the spiffy diplomatic posts in the European capitals or the idyllic ones like the Bahamas where they basically got paid to sit on the beach and drink margaritas and bail out drunk tourists once in a while. As a career foreign service officer, Cornett and his family had endured years in Third World shitholes like San Salvador, Delhi, Jakarta, and Nairobi. Tel Aviv was meant to be a step up, to prove himself in his job, but Cornett always got the feeling he was set up to fail. Nobody ever truly expected peace here in his lifetime. According to the pastor at Cornett's childhood church, there will never be peace in the Holy Land until Christ's 1000 year reign on Earth following the Rapture and the Tribulation, the Antichrist's broken 7 year treaty with Israel not included. Yet even those who didn't believe in Biblical prophesy knew peace was a long shot given the Arabs and Muslims refusal to even acknowledge Israel's right to exist. Yet if no progress was made in the next year or so, his performance would be seen negatively by the State Department, and the next position in Amsterdam would go to someone else, most likely someone rich and connected with no diplomatic experience whatsoever.

Israeli Prime Minister Jakob Weinstein quickly walked over as Cornett entered the high-tech briefing room with large screens showing footage from the IDF as well as the news media, and maps of Israel, the city of Tel Aviv, and the entire region. "I'm glad to see you again, Ambassador Cornett," he said in accented English, quickly shaking hands with the American diplomat. "Unfortunately we have to get down to business right away."

"Your country has our condolences and President Ryan will be given the necessary updates during his morning briefing," Cornett said. It was still predawn in Washington, D.C. "What's the update on the situation with the bombings?"

"We are still responding to those and I've declared a national state of emergency," Prime Minister Weinstein replied, "The Givitayim neighborhood and the military base also came under attack. Thanks to the quick actions of the American soldiers stationed there, in particular their commander Captain Christopher Henderson, the attack was repelled before the terrorists penetrated the base. We don't believe there were any American casualties."

"Oh my God," Cornett mouthed. He was relieved to hear that no U.S. soldiers were killed or wounded but the fact that the terrorists had launched such a brazen assault deep inside Israel's largest metropolitan area definitely changed the game completely. Maybe his performance evaluation could be based on handling the crisis instead of the peace process, Cornett thought glumly.

"But that's not the most pressing situation. Hamas terrorists led by Nakkash Bin Rahal stormed Ariel Sharon High School in Tel Aviv less than an hour ago. They are holding the entire student body, over 1500 students, hostage."

Cornett gasped. "Nakkash Bin Rahal is on Israeli soil personally leading this attack? Captain Henderson with the U.S. Army detachment at Givitayim reported that Bin Rahal disappeared from Gaza several weeks ago, he said this information was passed onto you."

"Yes it was and we placed extra surveillance on Hamas's suspected new tunnels but we were not able to track him here. Mr. Ambassador, Bin Rahal with be teleconferencing with us in 10 minutes, he demanded your presence. There are forty American citizens among the hostages."

"Jesus Christ! What the hell are they doing there?" Cornett exclaimed.

"One of the Birthright Israel trips. Most of them are college aged kids from the United States."

Ambassador Cornett closed his eyes. This was going to be the longest day of his career. "I need to call Washington. The President's going to have to get up early today."

12:15 PM – VENTILATION SYSTEM

Jack simply couldn't believe it. Barely two hours ago he was having breakfast and sharing a kiss in a sun-splashed living room. Never had a mere two hours left like a completely different universe away. But at least both he and Rachel were alive and unhurt and the terrorists probably didn't have any idea where he was.

"Whew, that was a close call," Rachel said, breathing rapidly but more calm than she ever had been since the terrorist assault on Ariel Sharon High School began. "Good thinking. It's clear you went through some hardcore combat training vs my basic gun range stuff."

Jack kissed her. "You're doing great, okay?"

"I shouldn't have panicked at first. We could have both been killed because of that. You responded better than I did," she said with an embarrassed look.

"Thanks to Captain Henderson," Jack remarked. He was suddenly thankful for every grueling moment Henderson had put him and his squad through at Fort Riley. He didn't blame Rachel for panicking and was just glad she got herself back together. Of course she knew that terrorism could strike anywhere in Israel at any time, but the fact wasn't brought home by her officers the way Henderson did. "We need to assess the situation now. So far the terrorists don't know we're on the loose, at least not yet, but they'll discover some of the bodies soon and begin asking questions."

"Jack," Rachel said, "The communications are still down but in a crisis mode IDF command for the Tel Aviv area will be at the Givitayim base. Our superiors should be coordinating with each other. We should hang tight right now until we can get in touch with them and see what our orders are."

"You're right," Jack told her, "The terrorists definitely have this entire property under their control at this point. We don't have a way out of here."

Rachel nodded. "Even if there was, I'm going to ask them permission to stay and run support. These kids here, I was them just two years ago. You know Jack, of course I've trained for something like this but I just still can't believe it's really happening. All these innocent kids are counting on me and I have to do everything I possibly can for them. That's what I swore to myself when I put on this uniform. I understand if this isn't your fight. You've done enough for me today."

Jack knew how shook up she was by their ordeal so far. Neither of them had even had time to process the realization they had both killed people for the first time. There was no doubt Rachel was afraid despite her insistence on pressing forward and offering all the help she can give. Someone once said being fearless isn't the absence of fear. It's the ability to go forward and face the things that scare you to death.* Jack also knew that he couldn't just walk away from this. There was a reason they were here.

"I'm not going anywhere without you, Rachel. I won't let anything happen to you," Jack said, holding her tight. In spite of himself, he gave her the most reassuring look he could manage at the moment. Jack was the one with extensive combat training and battle simulation experience while she only got the basics. He couldn't show his own trepidation at what was going on. He needed her to trust him and be confident in him if either of them was going to get out of this alive.

It seemed to be working. "There's certainly worse people I could be with right now."

DEFENSE MINISTRY, JERUSALEM / ARIEL SHARON HIGH SCHOOL

Ambassador Cornett, Prime Minister Weinstein, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Doron, and military chief of staff Timur Sokolow were gathered around the conference table as the teleconference began. In Ariel Sharon High School, Nakkash went into the new makeshift communications center behind the auditorium stage.

Nakkash Bin Rahal's image appeared on the large screen. He had changed out of the moving company uniform and how wore a traditional Arab checkered headdress with a green Hamas headband wrapped around it.

"Nakkash Bin Rahal," Weinstein said without additional greetings, "One would think that with all your years fighting us in Gaza, you would have learned by now that the State of Israel does not negotiate with terrorists."

"I see you are as arrogant in person as you are on TV," Nakkash said. "We are freedom fighters. You, your occupation forces, and your American friends are terrorists who occupy and pillage the Nation of Islam. And four years ago, I was in an Israeli military prison being tortured by Mossad by all the techniques they and the CIA came up with, but I did not break. You know why? Because I knew that by the grace of Allah, this day would come. Our holy warriors infiltrated a settlement in East Jerusalem and took three of your soldiers and illegal settlers to Ramallah. Your predecessor, at least, was quite willing to negotiate and grant me my freedom."

Nakkash had a proud smirk on his face that outraged Cornett. He just wanted to reach into that large screen and strangle this vile, disgusting maniac. "That anger, that feeling of powerlessness, that eats you up, does it not? Now I hold hostage 1500 of your children, from some of Tel Aviv's most prominent families. I also have in my hands 40 American citizens, most of them less than 21 years old. Kind of like the students who died at Virginia Tech."

"You sick piece of shit!" Ambassador Cornett cursed.

"I would have expected more diplomatic language from you, Mr. Ambassador," Nakkash retorted. "Think about these parents in America and Israel watching their sons and daughters slaughtered, their blood flowing through the hallways of this building while you could have prevented it. Their lives are in your hands."

"And what do you hope to achieve through this act of barbarism?" Defense Minister Doron asked.

"What we have always wanted, an end to the occupation of our sacred lands," Nakkash replied.

"You need to be more specific with your rhetoric, Nakkash," Weinstein said. "What exactly do you want in exchange for the hostages?"

"Let me make the rules clear to you first. My men are in complete control of the school and are expanding our perimeter. This building is wired with enough explosives to kill everyone inside in a matter of seconds. If any attempt is made to enter this building, if any of my men come under fire, we will destroy this school with everybody inside. If a single Israeli airstrike is conducted against Palestinian territory, we will destroy this building. Within the next three hours, you will begin withdrawing Israeli military forces from the Golan Heights. This withdrawal will be complete within 48 hours. My men in Syria and the Golan Heights will be reporting to me constantly. Additionally, you will cease all military overflights of Gaza and the West Bank and end your maritime blockade of Gaza. The Israeli Air Force and Navy has three hours to leave Palestinian airspace and territorial waters. Finally, within 6 hours, you will start withdrawing all IDF forces from your settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem."

"Mr. Bin Rahal, you know these demands are unreasonable. There are tens of thousands of Israeli civilians living in those settlements regardless of our policy disagreements. That matter is to be resolved through peace talks which you obviously are not interested in," Weinstein told him.

"Oh really?" said Nakkash. He said something in Arabic and a young high school freshman was dragged in front of the camera. "We are having peace talks right now." The men gathered in the conference room gasped and shuddered as Nakkash made the child kneel facing the camera, then placed a pistol to the back of his head and pulled the trigger. Cornett had to turn away at the last moment. He had a teenage son himself, about the same age as the boy who was just executed. Now there were more than a thousand innocent children in the school. This was the height of evil and depravity.

"Those are my terms," Nakkash concluded, "What you just witnessed will be repeated over and over again until our demands are met according to our timeline. As for your illegal settlers, they are free to stay in Palestine after your military pullback, but of course we cannot guarantee their safety."

"Mr. Bin Rahal," Ambassador Cornett spoke up, "It's my understanding you are holding 40 American citizens among your hostages. I assume you requested my presence in order to open a line of communication with the United States government."

"Actually, no, Mr. Cornett," Nakkash replied, "You are simply here to bear witness to the situation given your government's influence over the Zionist infidels. If Prime Minister Weinstein does not comply with my demands, it is not only Israeli lives at stake this time. I doubt President Ryan will be too delighted to see the bodies of young Americans dumped out of this building in front of the world." At that, Nakkash cut off the videoconference.

12:30 PM

"There's no way they can possibly expect to get any of those demands!" Prime Minister Weinstein exclaimed. Cornett remained silent for a few seconds, dreading how long this would be dragged out. Through that videoconference screen, he had just look straight into the eyes of pure evil. Nakkash chilled him to the bone. At least Cho Seung-Hui and Adam Lanza were mentally disturbed. Nakkash Bin Rahal was completely of sound mind. He had spent years planning this day, and no matter what happened, there will be boulevards and public streets named after him in Gaza and other cities across the Muslim world. Never had Cornett's faith in humanity reached such a desperate low.

"Do you think he's bluffing about the explosives on site?" Defense Minister Doron asked.

"Perhaps about the entire building being wired, but we must operate under the assumption at at least the areas where the hostages are being held are indeed wired. It's possible at least some of the terrorists are armed with suicide vests," Sokolow pointed out. "I will be speaking with General Wasser who is in charge of the Tel Aviv district."

"The first deadline involves the withdraw from the Golan Heights and opening the air and sea borders of the Gaza Strip," Weinstein pointed out then asked, "At the very least, for now, I am calling up the reserves for full combat readiness and putting every Iron Dome battery on red alert. It's likely their friends in Gaza will start launching rockets when our retaliatory capabilities held hostage. General Sokoloff, I want you and Wasser and come up with any rescue scenarios."

"Yes, sir. We are also prepared to deploy more Iron Dome batteries into the Galilee in case Hezbollah decides to break the Lebanon cease-fire," Sokolow replied. " I need your orders on how to proceed in regards to our air and naval patrols of the Gaza Strip."

"We can't stand down for long," Doron pointed out, "I recommend temporarily holding our fire and upping our defenses but I advise against ending the Navy patrols of the Gazan waters or evacuating our forces from the Golan Heights and the West Bank. If we do that, we open this country to a risk of attack not seen since the 1973 war. Syria, Iran and Lebanon will be watching our every move."

"Of course none of us have any intention of giving Bin Rahal what he wants, but I think it would be prudent to buy some time while we examine our rescue options."

Weinstein nodded. "Get back to me as soon as possible."

1:17 PM - GIVITAYIM MILITARY BASE

Preliminary reports indicated 37 Israeli soldiers dead and more than 80 wounded in the Hamas attacks on the Givitayim bases and the surrounding neighborhood. This is really happening, this is real, Captain Christopher Henderson thought as he sat in General Wasser's office in the secure bunker underneath the base as fighter jets and drones swarmed the sky above the neighborhood making sure all the terrorists had truly been taken out. Henderson wondered why Jack hadn't checked in yet. Maybe with the cell phone towers overwhelmed with the multiple attacks across Tel Aviv he wasn't able to call back, and traffic was snarled across the region as many people rushed home. For all of Israel's doggedness against terrorism, this was already the deadliest day on the homefront in decades. More than 400 people were feared dead in the attacks and more were being pulled out of the rubble.

"General Henderson, I would like to express my gratitude to you and your men for your quick thinking and tactical response. As horrific as this morning's attacks have been, it could have been a lot worse."

"Looks like this new forces agreement paid off after all. Even under these circumstances, I would rather be here than Saudi Arabia. What kind of rescue scenarios are we looking at, General? I'm still waiting to hear from the Pentagon but given the presence of U.S. citizens among the hostages I believe it would be reasonable to have some American involvement in the planning and execution of the rescue operation."

"That's a decision for the Defense Ministry but I'm sure we will be open to that idea. What kind of forces do you have in theater?"

"Here, just my team at Givitayim," Henderson admitted, "That's all we can spare within the next 5 to 8 hours. However we have special ops forces based at Camp Patriot and Incirlik. We can also call upon the NATO and U.S. bases at Aviano and Ramstein in Europe if the need arises."

"I'm not sure my superiors in Jerusalem will let it drag on that long. Bin Rahal's first deadline is in three hours."

"it's going to take time just to get your men together and coordinate an assault. Do we have any idea at all what we're up against?"

"All we know is that Hamas has dozens and dozens of fighters inside the school and they've set up heavy machine gun positions and snipers on the rooftop and they're armed with anti-tank missiles and RPGs, possibly Stinger missiles as well."

"Any idea where the hostages are being held?" Henderson inquired.

"Nobody made it out of the building, none of the students were able to escape," Wasser replied. "Our people have been trying to hack into the security camera feeds but the security system has been turned down and they're blocking all known radio frequencies. They must have their own frequency to communicate amongst themselves."

The door to the private section of the bunker opened and a young female soldier walked in briskly.

"You have something for me, Sergeant?" Wasser asked in Hebrew.

"Yes, sir," she said, holding out her cell phone. "One of our soldiers made contact from inside the school, apparently she survived the onslaught and found cover. The radio frequencies were all jammed but this came on her friend's personal cell phone. She's Private Rachel Friedman of the internal security division, she's also with an American stationed here, a Private Jack Bauer."

Henderson looked up. "Jack Bauer! He's one of mine, I been trying to get in touch with him all morning. He did mention he was north of downtown Tel Aviv."

"Okay, put it on speaker, please," General Wasser told the soldier who quickly complied.



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