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Israeli soldiers talk about the occupied territories
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“Worst case they’ll ask what we shot at, we’ll say it was a ‘suspicious spot’ ”

testimony catalog number: 470948
rank: First Sergeant
unit: Armored Corps
area: Deir al-Balah area
period: 2014

In the morning, the destruction wasn’t that extensive. There were some wrecked houses, and a few paths already plowed by D9s (armored bulldozers). We joined the rest of the company and instigated engagement. In the armored corps, ‘engagement’ means the entire force firing at once. We were given a number of targets – I don’t know if they corresponded to the number of tanks. It’s so crowded in there, there aren’t any spaces between the buildings. It’s not like any normal city, where you’ll see a building next to another building and there’s a space between them. It looks like one fused layer.

And at that point were you being fired at?
No fire was directed toward us, but these were deemed ‘suspicious spots’ – which means a very lax policy of opening fire [was being employed]. That can mean anything that looks threatening to us. An especially tall building, or something that could be holding an antitank system – anything that feels threatening or fishy. Anything that doesn’t blend into the scenery, that feels artificial. Things like that, or things that we really had intelligence about. There were lots of observation posts working alongside us, from lots of different forces, and we fired at that kind of thing. You’re allowed to shoot at pretty much whatever you want to, unless you see something that would be unreasonable to shoot at, like a school. There were times we were told, “You see that building? That’s a school, don’t shoot there. And that over there is the Gaza amusement park – one can see the Ferris wheel from a distance – we don’t shoot at it.” But everything else that they didn’t specifically instruct us to avoid shooting at – and except for a few other places, where nearby [IDF] forces were located to avoid friendly fire – you could shoot anywhere, nearly freely. There are also times when we said, “Let’s fire over there, worst case they’ll ask what we shot at, we’ll say it was a ‘suspicious spot,’ that it looked threatening.” That happened a few times.

Who authorizes opening fire?
Usually that would be the tank commander. Since regulations [for opening fire] were very permissive during the operation, tank commanders could authorize.

What rules of engagement were you provided with before
you entered [the Gaza Strip]?

I don’t really remember what was discussed in terms of formal instructions before we entered, and after we entered nobody really cared about the formal instructions anyway. That’s what we knew. Every tank commander knew, and even the simple soldiers knew, that if something turns out to be not OK, they can say they saw something suspicious. They’ve got backup. They won’t ever be tried. 

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