'Shoot anyone you see': Israel's kill policy exposed

May 10, 2015
Donkeys shot by Israeli soldiers. Gaza, July 2014.

Two new global developments emphasised the growing momentum of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targetting Israel.

The campaign was launched in 2005 by more than 100 Palestinian civil society groups in a bid to isolate Israel over its polices of occupation and apartheid against Palestinians.

BDS South Africa announced on May 4 that five more South African student representative councils had voted to join the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. This follows endorsements of the BDS by the SRCs of Wits University and the University of Cape Town. The decisions are in line with a 2011 decision by the South African Union of Students that urged “all SRCs, student groups and other youth structures to strategise and implement a boycott of Israel”.

US hip hop singer Lauryn Hill announced on May 5 she was cancelling her May 7 concert in Israel after an appeal by activists and fans for her to respect the boycott. Hill joins a growing lists of artists from many cultural fields who are boycotting Israel in support of the BDS.

On May 8, Electronic Intifada said US rock band Primus announced they were cancelling a June show. The site said Belgium theatre group CAMPO had pulled out of the coming Israel Festival after a request from Belgian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

The reasons for the growing support for BDS are not hard to see: Israel's ever-growing program of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land, its apartheid polices inside Israel and in the occupied West Bank and its human rights abuses are well documented.

But its repeated murderous wars targeting the besieged territory of Gaza have played a large role in generating global anger. A new report has detailed the deliberate policy of mass murder used by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in its July-August onslaught against Gaza last year. The article below by Mark Moloney, reprinted from An Phoblacht, details its findings.

* * *

A report by Israeli Army veterans organisation Breaking the Silence reveals how soldiers were effectively ordered to shoot to kill anything that moved during last year's invasion of Gaza.

The document, entitled This Is How We Fought In Gaza, contains testimony from 60 soldiers and officers in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) who took part in the July-August invasion of the beleaguered Gaza Strip, which left more than 2200 Palestinians — mainly civilians — dead.

One Israeli army captain said he received no official instructions from his commanders as to what the rules of engagement were for his squad and essentially was told “anyone you see, you shoot”.

A sergeant who was deployed to Gaza City told Breaking the Silence: “The briefing on rules of engagement was [to open fire at] 'anything you think you should … Anyone that you can spot that you can be positive is not the IDF'.”

He says that essentially everybody who was not an Israeli soldier was to be considered a target because there “wasn't supposed to be any civilian population there”.

“The instructions were 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.”

A sergeant in the mechanised infantry, speaking about the rules of engagement, said: “Anything inside [Gaza] is a threat, the area has to be sterilized 'empty' of people.”

Another soldier describes how a member of his unit shot an elderly civilian who approached their location because he feared he may be a suicide bomber: “There was this one time when an old man approached the house ... and the guy manning the post — he saw this civilian and he fired at him, and he didn't get a good hit.

“The civilian was laying there, writhing in pain.”

He says none of the paramedics were willing to treat the man, believed to be in his 70s, for fear he was wearing a booby-trap: “It was clear to everyone that one of two things was going to happen: Either we let him die slowly or we put him out of his misery.

“Eventually, we put him out of his misery and a D9 [armoured bulldozer] came over and dropped a mound of rubble on him and that was the end of it.”

He says when the incident was reported to a commander he was told: “We have casualties up front, don’t bother us, do what you need to do.”

Other soldiers describe using armoured bulldozers to destroy hundreds of homes. Others, whose units occupied Palestinian houses, explained how they turned some of them into communal bathrooms for their soldiers as there was no running water to use toilets.

One Israeli sergeant even compared the IDF's destruction of the Beit Hanoun neighbourhood with the razing of Warsaw by the Nazis during World War II.

Soldiers were also instructed to use “provocation fire” on suspicious areas if they could not identify any targets. When asked what exactly a “suspicious area” was and within what range it could be defined, a soldier in a tank unit explained: “Any range.

“In principle, any house that can see me, that’s within eyeshot of me, which could take me down — can be defined as suspicious.”

Underlining how anything that moved was a target, he describes how his tank opened fire with its machine guns on an area in the distance after a soldier claimed he saw a small amount of movement — only to later discover they had killed a cow.

The IDF have already dismissed the report, saying Breaking the Silence has refused to provide any proof of the claims. However, Breaking the Silence director Yehuda Shaul said the group was happy to share materials and had written to Israel’s army chief of staff in March to ask for a meeting — but had received no response.

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