The Israel Defense Forces (IDF)—often described as “the most moral army in the world” by Israeli politicians and their allies—ordered soldiers to “fire at every person you see,” including civilians, in its summer 2014 attack on Gaza, codenamed Operation “Protective Edge.”
This finding is disclosed in a report by Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence. The organization spent eight months after the end of the war, in August 2014, interviewing over 60 soldiers and officers from Israel’s army, air force, and navy.
Israeli soldiers recall shooting innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza because they were “bored.”
The report notes that the “soldiers were briefed by their commanders to fire at every person they identified in a combat zone, since the working assumption was that every person in the field was an enemy.”
An IDF First Sergeant recalled
The briefing on rules of engagement was [to shoot] … ‘Anyone you spot that you can be positive is not the IDF.’ The only emphasis regarding rules of engagement was to make sure you weren’t firing at IDF forces, but other than that, ‘Any person you see.’ From the very start they told us, ‘Shoot to kill.’ As far as the IDF was concerned, there wasn’t supposed to be any civilian population there.
Another first sergeant said he was told “if it looks like a man, shoot.”
Breaking the Silence describes itself as “an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada [in 2000] and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.”
This is not the only report that found evidence of Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on Palestinian civilians. An independent investigation in Gaza, conducted by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, in conjunction with other prominent human rights and medical organizations and overseen by numerous scientific, medical, and human rights specialists, also concluded that Israel deliberately targeted civilians in Gaza. As I wrote in a summary of this report:
PHR-Israel reported Israel committed the following acts in its Operation Protective Edge:
- used civilians as human shields;
- shot civilians dead at close range;
- left mortally wounded children on the ground to die, even though soldiers made eye contact with them;
- conducted multiple consecutive strikes on a single location (“double taps”), killing injured survivors and those attempting to rescue them;
- beat civilians;
- denied civilians food and water;
- bombed medical clinics that were acting as shelters for civilians and the wounded;
- “deliberately” attacked hospitals;
- prevented emergency medical evacuation, even by international organizations such as Red Cross;
- killed and injured “many” medical teams that were evacuating the injured;
- refused to allow civilians to exit areas being attacked;
- targeted civilian escape routes;
- shelled ambulances;
- attacked civilians attempting to flee areas under fire;
The report additionally documented Israel’s use of unconventional and experimental weapons, resulting in injuries local doctors characterized as “strange or inexplicable.” Among those used were
- flechette munitions (which doctors reported surgically removing from the faces of children);
- “explosive barrel” bombs, referred to as “Tzefa Shirion” weapons, that were made to be used to clear mines, but were dropped on civilians;
- what are suspected to be DIME weapons, leading to “unusual burns” and “unusual amputations,” with “charred” black skin that did not smell like burning flesh and black “tattooing” around cauterization-like stumps of amputees;
- weapons that left “‘Computer chips’ with Sony markings embedded as shrapnel in people’s bodies”;
- “a gas of unknown type,” a white-colored gas with a “sewage-like smell” that burned skin and caused respiratory problems and could be seen and smelled from 500 meters away;
During its 50-day assault, according to the UN, Israel killed at least 2131 Palestinians, approximately 70% of whom were civilians, including over 500 children and over 250 women. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 11,100 Palestinians were also wounded. The UN also estimates 18,000 housing units were also either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving roughly 108,000 Palestinians homeless.
On the other side, 93% of the 71 Israelis killed by Palestinians were soldiers.