Monday May 4th 2015
This should surprise nobody who paid any attention to the brutal Israeli destruction of Gaza or, for that matter, countless Israeli attacks before that. The U.N. has said that 7 out of 10 people killed by the Israelis were civilians, “including 1,462 civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women”; video of Israelis killing four Gazan boys as they played on a beach sickened anyone decent.
Nonetheless, reading the accounts from these Israeli soldiers is revolting and important in equal parts. It shines considerable light on the reality of what Israeli loyalists have long hailed as “the most moral army in the world,” one unfairly held to a difference standard that ignores their great “restraint.”
The Intercept has chosen some selected, representative excerpts from the report, with the rank of the testifying soldier indicated (each one was granted anonymity by the report’s organizers). This is the savage occupying force known as the Israeli Defense Forces:
“Whoever you see there, you kill”
An Israeli soldier posted this photo of a Palestinian child in his rifle's crosshairs on Instagram
The commander [gave that order]. “Anything you see in the neighborhoods you’re in, anything within a reasonable distance, say between zero and 200 meters – is dead on the spot. No authorization needed.” We asked him: “I see someone walking in the street, do I shoot him?” He said yes.
Did the commander discuss what happens if you run into civilians or uninvolved people?
There are none. The working assumption states – and I want to stress that this is a quote of sorts: that anyone located in an IDF area, in areas the IDF took over – is not [considered] a civilian. That is the working assumption. We entered Gaza with that in mind, and with an insane amount of firepower.
Shot a “grandpa” while he lay wounded on the ground
Staff Sargent, Infantry:
A soldier who was in one of the posts saw an old [Palestinian] man approaching, so he shouted that some old man was getting near. He didn’t shoot at him – he fired near him. What I know, because I checked this, is that one of the other soldiers shot that grandpa twice. . . .
I went up to a window to see what was going on out there, and I saw there was an old man lying on the ground, he was shot in his leg and he was wounded. It was horrible, the wound was horrible, and he looked either dead or unconscious to me. . . . . And then after that, some guy from the company went out and shot that man again, and that, for me, was the last straw. I don’t think there was a single guy in my platoon who wasn’t shocked by that. It’s not like we’re a bunch of leftists, but – why? Like, what the hell, why did you have to shoot him again? One of the problems in this story is that there was no inquiry into it, at least none that I know of.
“Any person you run into: shoot to kill”
Staff Sargent, Engineering Corps:
We asked, “Will the civilian population return? What will the situation look like now when we go in [to the Gaza Strip] again?” And they said, “You aren’t supposed to encounter the civilian population, no one is supposed to be in the area in which you’ll be. Which means that anyone you do run into is [to be regarded as] a terrorist.”
The instructions are to shoot right away. Whoever you spot – be they armed or unarmed, no matter what. The instructions are very clear. Any person you run into, that you see with your eyes – shoot to kill. It’s an explicit instruction.
No incrimination process is necessary?
Used tanks to crush Palestinians’ cars purely for “fun”
During the entire operation the [tank] drivers had this thing of wanting to run over cars – because the driver, he can’t fire. He doesn’t have any weapon, he doesn’t get to experience the fun in its entirety, he just drives forward, backward, right, left. And they had this sort of crazy urge to run over a car. . . .
I mean, a car that’s in the street, a Palestinian car, obviously. And there was one time that my [tank’s] driver, a slightly hyperactive guy, managed to convince the tank’s officer to run over a car, and it was really not that exciting– you don’t even notice you’re going over a car, you don’t feel anything – we just said on the two-way radio: “We ran over the car. How was it?” And it was cool, but we really didn’t feel anything. . . .
So he came back in, and right then the officer had just gone out or something, so he sort of whispered to me over the earphones: “I scored some sunglasses from the car.” And after that, he went over and told the officer about it too, that moron, and the officer scolded him: “What, how could you do such a thing? I’m considering punishing you,” but in the end nothing happened, he kept the sunglasses, and he wasn’t too harshly scolded, it was all OK, and it turned out that a few of the other company’s tanks ran over cars, too.
“The citizens of Gaza, I really don’t give a fuck about them”
Staff Sargent, Infantry:
It was during our first Sabbath. Earlier that day one of the companies was hit by a few anti-tank missiles. The unit went to raid the area from which they were fired, so the guys who stayed behind automatically cared less about civilians. I remember telling myself that right now, the citizens of Gaza, I really don’t give a fuck about them. They don’t deserve anything – and if they deserve something it’s either to be badly wounded or killed. . . .
What came up during the investigation when the company commander asked the soldier, was that the soldier spotted a man in his late 60s, early 70s approaching the house. They were stationed in a tall house, with a good vantage point. The soldier spotted that guy going in his direction, toward his post. So he shot in the direction of his feet at the beginning. And he said the old man kept getting closer to the house so he shot a bullet beneath his left ribs. Kidney, liver, I don’t know what’s in there. A spot you don’t want to be hit by a bullet. That old man took the bullet, lay down on the ground, then a friend of that soldier came over and also shot the man, while he was already down. For the hell of it, he shot two more bullets at his legs. Meanwhile there was a talk with the commander, and because this was happening amidst a battalion offensive, it really didn’t interest anyone. “We have casualties up front, don’t bother us, do what you need to do.”
Shelling and machine-gunning “every house we passed” – then taking them over and using them
Staff Sargent, Engineering Corps:
During our walk there was no sign of any face-off or anything. There was a lot of shooting, but only from us.
How is the sweeping of a house conducted, when you enter it?
We would go in ‘wet’ (using live fire). I could hear the shooting, everything was done ‘wet.’ When we entered this house everything inside it was already a mess. Anything that could shatter had been shattered, because everything had been shot at. Anything made of glass – windows, a glass table, picture frames – it was all wrecked. All the beds were turned over, the rugs, the mattresses. Soldiers would take a rug to sleep on, a mattress, a pillow. There was no water, so you couldn’t use the toilet. So we would shit in their bathtub.
“By the time we got out of there, everything was like a sandbox”
Staff Sargent, Mechanized Infantry:
First of all, it’s impressive seeing a D9 take down a big two-story house. We were in the area of a fairly rich, rural neighborhood – very impressive houses. We were in one spot where there was a house with a children’s residence unit next door – just like in a well-off Moshav (a type of rural town) in Israel. The D9 would simply go in, take down part of the wall and then continue, take down another part of the wall, and leave only the columns intact. At a certain point it would push a pile of sand to create a mound of rubble and bring down other parts, until the house was eventually left stripped, and from that point it would simply hit the house [with its blade] until it collapsed. The D9 was an important working tool. It was working nearly non-stop.
Randomly obliterating homes with no warning, for revenge
Staff Sargent, Armored Corps:
A barrage of shells. They fired the way it’s done in funerals, but with shellfire and at houses. Not into the air. They just chose [a house] – the tank commander said, “Just pick the farthest one, so it does the most damage.” Revenge of sorts. So we fired at one of the houses. Really you just see a block of houses in front of you, so the distance doesn’t really matter.
Photo of smoke from an Israeli air strike rising over the Gaza Strip on July 14, 2014 at the Israeli-Gaza border. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
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May 8, 2015 6:11 pmAuthor
|Israel soldiers. Photo: Israel Defense Forces.|
The soldiers spoke to Israel’s Channel 2 to tell their side of the story, and to counter the testimonies compiled by Breaking the Silence.
One soldier called the report “a wicked story” and a “stab in the back.”
Another soldier, Lt. Oren (a pseudonym), was a platoon commander in the 7th Brigade during the previous Operation Cast Lead, which began in late 2008. The Breaking the Silence report claimed that one of the tank commanders in Oren’s platoon carried out a “revenge attack” by targeting civilian houses in Gaza.
Oren refuted the claim, saying “this nonsense about ‘fire on the house that you want for revenge’ is simply a total lie.”
He said “it is very hard for me to believe that one of ours said something like that, definitely not someone who was there.”
Oren, who was personally involved in the operation, told a different story.
He said that any “revenge” incident might have occurred after Armored Core Capt. Dmitri Levitas (26) was killed in battle, but that the Breaking the Silence testimony “simply is not true.”
He said despite the fact that he and his fellow soldiers were severely affected by the death of Levitas, “we maintained combat ethics.”
“While it’s true there was heavy [IDF] fire, this fire was directed at positions from which we were being fired upon, or suspicious locations,” he recalled.
IDF tanks only fired “in accordance with procedure, and after a very strict identification process,” he said.
Oren emphasized that despite “losing a great commander and friend … we still abided by shooting procedure.”
He said that field commanders operated according to very accurate and high quality intelligence regarding almost every single home.
Oren said, “They knew where the majority of the tunnels were located and where there were no civilians … Every shell was fired only after going through the proper procedure in which we had been trained long before the Operation.”
He added that, “Before the Operation and also after it, we conveyed to the commanders and we conveyed to the soldiers the importance of precise fire, the importance of identifying the target and not to fire on innocents.”
Oren said that this was not the only instance where his soldiers exercised extreme caution when it came to Palestinian civilian lives. “I can tell you about two instances where we could have fired upon what we suspected was a dispatcher, but we didn’t out of concern for innocent lives.”
Lt. Oren was not the only soldier to speak out, nor was his story unique. Another soldier, who was a battalion commander during Protective Edge and an officer with the rank of Lt. Col., also came forward. He said that before entering Gaza, “we were provided with a large amount of intelligence, and we requested permission after permission, verification after verification.”
The officer said that when he was notified that he and his soldiers would be entering Gaza, “I conveyed to the fighters the importance of precise fire and avoiding harming innocents.” According to him, this is a message that he and many other officers conveyed to their soldiers not just before entry into Gaza, but during ground operations as well.
He said that every round fired received either his approval or that of another responsible officer, and that “every entry we made into an area was done after we told [civilians] to leave the area.”
“Come now, tell me one example in history, one, of an army in the entire world that notified the enemy where it was planning to act or what they are planning to do. This is something entirely irrational,” he said.
Channel 2 said many more soldiers and high ranking officers stepped forward to present a very different story from the one conveyed in the Breaking the Silence report, emphasizing the IDF’s strict adherence to international law — which sometimes goes beyond the requirements of the Law of Armed Conflict – and the caution the army exercised to prevent Palestinian civilian deaths.
Breaking the Silence offered a response to the interviews, saying, “in the book that was published this week, testimonies of dozens of soldiers and officers who served in Protective Edge are presented. We welcome every discussion taking place among the public over the fighting in Gaza and we are proud that the publication of these testimonies encouraged other soldiers to step forward and relate what happened throughout the operation.”
“Among all of the testimonies that have been published in the last few days by those other than us, not a single one of them disproved the central point related to the policy of indiscriminate fire which led to the harm of innocent civilians,” the statement read, even though the Channel 2 testimonies seemed to indicate otherwise.
“Many different soldiers came out with different feelings about the operation, and it is our duty as the public to listen to them, and to ask ourselves if such a policy is acceptable to us, and what our moral limits are as a community,” said Breaking the Silence.
'So I took the time to post a story as well as the flip side of the first story, which would you agree with???'