An Israeli activist group has accused the military of employing a “policy of indiscriminate fire” during last year’s war in the Gaza Strip, which it says directly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians. A report titled “This is How We Fought In Gaza” carries testimonies of soldiers stating that the rules of engagement provided to them before the ground incursion were “unclear and lenient.”
“We learn from the testimonies that there is a broad ethical failure in the IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces] rules of engagement, and that this failure comes from the top of the chain of command, and is not merely the result of ‘rotten apples,” Yuli Novak, director of Breaking the Silence, which is made up of active soldiers and veterans, said, in a statement.
During last summer’s 50-day “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including nearly 1,500 civilians. On the Israeli side, 72 people died, including 66 soldiers. International human rights group have accused both the Israeli military and Hamas -- the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip -- of committing war crimes.
“There weren’t really any rules of engagement, it was more protocols. The idea was, if you spot something -- shoot,” an Israeli first sergeant deployed in the northern Gaza Strip told Breaking the Silence. “They told us ‘there aren’t supposed to be any civilians there. If you spot someone, shoot’ … If you shoot someone in Gaza, it’s cool, no big deal. First of all, because it’s Gaza, and second, because that’s warfare.”
The report alleged that large swathes of the Gaza Strip were destroyed as an act of punishment “without any clear operational justification.” It also said that the army’s practice of “roof-knocking” as a form of advance warning failed to prevent civilian deaths.
“This practice calls for firing a small missile at the structure that does not cause significant damage to the building. A few seconds to a few minutes later, a missile is fired on the house in order to destroy it,” the report said. “The soldiers’ testimonies point to cases in which this practice rendered the advance warning ineffective.”
The findings of the report were rejected by the Israeli military, which accused the organization of failing to “provide the IDF with any proof of their claims.” However, the testimonies of the Israeli soldiers detailed in the report are likely to bolster Palestinian claims that Israel committed war crimes during the conflict.