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.
testimony catalog number: 568083
area: Gaza strip
period: 2014

There were cases in which families were apparently killed by fighter jet strikes. How do you explain that?
A lot of houses were hit, and some of those houses were also shared by occupants aside from [Hamas] militants. I think most of the families that were hurt were in cases like Shuja’iyya, (the testifier is referring to the artillery shot in the aftermath of the event in which seven IDF soldiers were killed when their APC was hit by a rocket) where the threshold for opening fire was more lax because forces were in immediate danger.

But the forces were operating in neighborhoods that were supposed to be uninhabited.
‘Supposed to be’ is one thing, but in reality there were people in there sometimes. In the urban areas of Rafah and Khuza’a, every other house was marked as ‘active’ (being used by militants). It was a real hornet’s nest in there, and they took down those houses systematically. ‘Roof knocking’ (a method by which a small missile is fired on the roof of a building as a warning shot to its residents that it is about to be struck) followed by a boom, ‘roof knocking,’ a boom. Despite the fact that no one was ‘supposed to be’ in there.

But there are means of confirming that there aren’t any people [in the houses], so how did it happen that they got killed anyway?
We can’t know everything. We did everything we could in order to know. If the family had no phone and a ‘roof knocking’ was conducted, and after a few minutes no one came out, then the assumption was that there was no one there.

You were working under the assumption that once a ‘roof knocking’ was conducted everyone leaves the building immediately, and if nobody leaves it means there was no one inside?
People who are willing to sacrifice themselves, there’s nothing you can do. We have no way of knowing if there were people in there who decided not to get out.

But the bomb was dropped on the house?

And say after a ‘roof knocking’ 10 people go up on the roof of the house?
Then you don’t strike the house.

And what if after a ‘roof knocking’ 10 people stay inside the living room?
If people were inside the house I didn’t know about it. But I don’t think that was taken into consideration [over whether or not to bomb the house].

Is it a requirement to make sure no civilians are in a structure before it’s attacked by a fighter jet?
It’s not obligatory. Say the target was [Hamas’] deputy battalion commander in Shuja’iyya, an attack would be launched if the number of civilians wasn’t too high. By too high, I mean a two-digit number.

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