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Israeli Vets Speak Out: What Really Goes On In Gaza

Starvation, shooting at kids, casual violence—former IDF soldiers reveal the abuses by the Israeli military in Gaza.

| Mon Nov. 26, 2012 2:08 PM EST

3. Shoot to Kill

Unit: Engineering Corps

Location: Rafah

Year: 2006

During the operations in Gaza, anyone walking around in the street, your shoot at the torso. In one operation in the Philadelphi corridor, anyone walking around at night, you shoot at the torso.

How often were the operations?

Daily. In the Philadelphi corridor, every day.

When you're searching for tunnels, how do people manage to get around—I mean, they live in the area.

It's like this: You bring one force up to the third or fourth floor of a building. Another group does the search below. They know that while they're doing the search there'll be people trying to attack them. So they put the force up high, so they can shoot at anyone down in the street.

How much shooting was there?

Endless.

Say I'm there, I'm up on the third floor. I shoot at anyone I see?

Yes.

But it's in Gaza, it's a street, it's the most crowded place in the world.

No, no, I'm talking about the Philadelphi corridor.

So that's a rural area?

Not exactly, there's a road, it's like the suburbs, not the center. During operations in the other Gaza neighborhoods it's the same thing. Shooting, during night operations—shooting.

It there any kind of announcement telling people to stay indoors?

No.

They actually shot people?

They shot anyone walking around in the street. It always ended with, "We killed six terrorists today." Whoever you shoot in the street is "a terrorist."

That's what they say at the briefings?

The goal is to kill terrorists.

What are the rules of engagement?

Whoever's walking around at night, shoot to kill.

During the day, too?

They talked about that in the briefings: whoever's walking around during the day, look for something suspicious. But something suspicious could be a cane.

4. Elimination Operation

Unit: Special Forces

Location: Gaza Strip

Year: 2000

There was a period at the beginning of the Intifada where they assassinated people using helicopter missiles.

This was at the beginning of the Second Intifada?

Yes. But it was a huge mess because there were mistakes and other people were killed, so they told us we were now going to be doing a ground elimination operation.

Is that the terminology they used? "Ground elimination operation"?

I don't remember. But we knew it was going to be the first one of the Intifada. That was very important for the commanders and we started to train for it. The plan was to catch a terrorist on his way to Rafah, trap him in the middle of the road, and eliminate him.

Not to arrest him?

No, direct elimination. Targeted. But that operation was canceled, and then a few days later they told us that we're going on an arrest operation. I remember the disappointment. We were going to arrest the guy instead of doing something groundbreaking, changing the terms. So the operation was planned...

Anyway, we're waiting inside the APC [armored personnel carrier], there are Shin Bet agents with us, and we can hear the updates from intelligence. It was amazing, like, "He's sitting in his house drinking coffee, he's going downstairs, saying hi to the neighbor"—stuff like that. "He's going back up, coming down again, saying this and that, opening the trunk now, picking up a friend"—really detailed stuff. He didn't drive, someone else drove, and they told us his weapon was in the trunk. So we knew he didn't have the weapon with him in the car, which would make the arrest easier. At least it relieved my stress, because I knew that if he ran to get the weapon, they'd shoot at him.

Where did the Shin Bet agent sit?

With me. In the APC. We were in contact with command and they told us he'd arrive in another five minutes, four minutes, one minute. And then there was a change in the orders, apparently from the brigade commander: elimination operation. A minute ahead of time. They hadn't prepared us for that. A minute to go and it's an elimination operation.

Why do you say "apparently from the brigade commander"?

I think it was the brigade commander. Looking back, the whole thing seems like a political ploy by the commander, trying to get bonus points for doing the first elimination operation, and the brigade commander trying, too. . . everyone wanted it, everyone was hot for it. The car arrives, and it's not according to plan: their car stops here, and there's another car in front of it, here. From what I remember, we had to shoot, he was three meters away. We had to shoot. After they stopped the cars, I fired through the scope and the gunfire made an insane amount of noise, just crazy. And then the car, the moment we started shooting, started speeding in this direction.

The car in front?

No, the terrorist's car—apparently when they shot the driver his leg was stuck on the gas, and they started flying. The gunfire increased, and the commander next to me is yelling "Stop, stop, hold your fire," but they don't stop shooting. Our guys get out and start running, away from the jeep and the armored truck, shoot a few rounds, and then go back. Insane bullets flying around for a few minutes. "Stop, stop, hold your fire," and then they stop. They fired dozens if not hundreds of bullets into the car in front.

Are you saying this because you checked afterward?

Because we carried out the bodies. There were three people in that car. Nothing happened to the person in the back. He got out, looked around like this, put his hands in the air. But the two bodies in the front were hacked to pieces...

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