Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada, and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. They endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life. Their work aims to bring an end to the occupation.
“It was during our first Sabbath. Earlier that day, one of the companies was hit by a few anti-tank missiles. The unit went to raid the area from which they were fired, so the guys who stayed behind automatically cared less about civilians.
I remember telling myself that right now, the citizens of Gaza, I really don’t give a fuck about them. They don’t deserve anything – and, if they deserve something it’s either to be badly wounded or killed. That’s what was going through my mind during those moments.
There was this one time when an old [Palestinian] man approached the house and everyone remembered hearing about that booby-trapped old man (earlier in his testimony the testifier described being briefed about an elderly Palestinian man armed with grenades who tried to attack a different force). This happened right around noon, between noon and 2:00 PM. So this old man came over, and the guy manning the post – I don’t know what was going through his head – 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. We all remembered that story going around, so none of the paramedics wanted to go treat him. 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 (armored bulldozer) came over and dropped a mound of rubble on him and that was the end of it. In order to avoid having to deal with the question of whether he was booby-trapped or not — because that really didn’t interest anyone at that moment — the D9 came over, dropped a pile of rubble on his body and that was it. Everyone knew that under that pile there was the guy’s corpse.
What came up during the investigation when the company commander asked the soldier, was that the soldier spotted a man in his late 60s, early 70s approaching the house. They were stationed in a tall house, with a good vantage point. The soldier spotted that guy going in his direction, toward his post. So he shot in the direction of his feet at the beginning. And, he said the old man kept getting closer to the house so he shot a bullet beneath his left ribs. Kidney, liver, I don’t know what’s in there. A spot you don’t want to be hit by a bullet. That old man took the bullet, lay down on the ground, then a friend of that soldier came over and also shot the man, while he was already down. For the hell of it, he shot two more bullets at his legs.
Meanwhile, there was a talk with the commander, and, because this was happening amidst a battalion offensive, it really didn’t interest anyone. ‘We have casualties up front, don’t bother us, do what you need to do.'”
What were the lessons derived from that incident?
“The lessons were less about conduct with civilians, because you can’t define conduct with civilians on the company level. That’s the ‘problem’ with combat in a place like the Gaza Strip. With regard to lessons learned, they were primarily related to defense: where to position defense posts, guarding protocols, is guarding done in pairs? That was the level of discussion over lessons to be learned from this incident.”
Edited for the IMEMC by chris @ imemc.org, reposted with the express permission of Breaking the Silence.