An Israeli soldier has published accounts of Israeli soldiers being authorized by their commanders to carry out revenge attacks against civilians in the Gaza Strip “to enable the soldiers to take out their frustrations and pain at losing their fellow soldiers”.Eran Efrati reports, “Soldiers in two different units inside Gaza leaked information about the murdering of Palestinians by sniper fire in Shuja’eyya neighborhood as punishment for the death of soldiers in their units. After the shooting on the Israeli armored personnel carriers, which killed seven soldiers of the Golani Brigade, the Israeli army carried out a massacre in Shuja’eyya neighborhood.
“A day after the massacre, many Palestinians came to search for their relatives and their families in the rubble. In one of the videos uploaded to YouTube, a young Palestinian man Salem Shammaly calls the names of his family and looking for them between the ruins when he is suddenly shot at in his chest and falls down. A few seconds after that, there are two additional shots from snipers into his body, killing him instantly.
“Since the video was released, there was no official response from the IDF spokesperson. Today I can report that the official command that was handed down to the soldiers in Shuja’eyya was to capture Palestinian homes as outposts. From these posts, the soldiers drew an imaginary red line, and amongst themselves decided to shoot to death anyone who crosses it. Anyone crossing the line was defined as a threat to their outposts, and was thus deemed a legitimate target. This was the official reasoning inside the units.
“I was told that the unofficial reason was to enable the soldiers to take out their frustrations and pain at losing their fellow soldiers (something that for years the IDF has not faced during its operations in Gaza and the West Bank), out on the Palestinian refugees in the neighborhood. Under the pretext of the so-called “security threat” soldiers were directed to carry out a pre-planned attack of revenge on Palestinian civilians.”
Richard Silverstein, who works with the publication Tikkun Olam, wrote in response to Efrati’s account, “What Efrati is revealing is an semi-officially sanctioned My Lai-type massacre. The man in green murdered in cold blood in the YouTube video wasn’t killed by a lone gunman operating on his own. His murder was approved as an act of vengeance on all of Gaza. Let’s remember that 120 Palestinians died that night in Shejaia. This was no accident. They weren’t collateral damage. They were the targets.”
The reports of authorized revenge attacks come in the midst of a massive bombing attack by the Israeli airforce Tuesday morning, an admission by the Israeli military that their missile hit a UN school in Beit Hanoun, and another school was hit by an Israeli strike on Monday.
In an article in the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth on July 18th, as the ground invasion began, the paper reported, ‘The tanks, which serve as the heart of the assault force, received an order to open fire at anything that moved. The area and the targets are due to be seized by the morning hours. From here on, [the army] will start to clear the ground, in what could last for several days, depending on political developments.’
Note: A previous version of this story contained a reference to Eran Efrati being a member of the Israeli group ‘Breaking the Silence’. The current spokesperson for ‘Breaking the Silence’ contacted the IMEMC to say that Efrati is no longer a member of that group.