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Israeli soldiers talk about the occupied territories
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“We can be good kids, on our best behavior, but even then a D9 will show up and flatten the house”

testimony catalog number: 723062
rank: Sergeant First Class
unit: Mechanized infantry
area: Deir al-Balah area
period: 2014

In regards to looting, there was a pretty strict dialogue, in general. It was clear that that kind of thing wasn’t going to take place in our company, that it would not be tolerated. Once, we got into an argument over eating fruit [belonging to Palestinians], whether it’s ethical. This was an internal dialogue, within the company.

In the houses you were in, where would you pee?

Usually outside, because usually there was no water [in the toilets]. Whoever was first to enter sometimes had the luxury of one flush, but nothing beyond that. The whole issue of making use of the [Palestinians’] houses was marked by serious tension. On the one hand, for some people it was a difficult and unpleasant experience to enter someone’s house and realize that it’s their home. You see the kids’ room, the parents’ room, the living room, and you don’t want to take advantage of the things in there. On the other hand, you also know that using some of those things could drastically change your stay there. For example mattresses, which are found in every house. And we knew that when we leave the neighborhood, it was clear to us that that the neighborhood was going to be flattened, because of its geographic location. We knew that we were entering a house and that we could be good kids, on our best behavior, but even then a D9 (armored bulldozer) would show up and flatten the house. We figured out pretty quick that every house we leave, a D9 shows up and razes it. The neighborhood we were in, what characterized it operationally was that it commanded a view of the entire area of the [Israel-Gaza barrier] and also of some of the [Israeli] border towns. In the southern and some of the eastern parts of Juhar al-Dik, we understood pretty quickly that the houses would not be left standing. At no point until the end of the operation, until the unit commander debriefed us, did anyone explain to us the value of razing houses. During the talk the unit commander explained that it wasn’t an act of revenge. That the houses situated on a high axis on this side of the ridge dominated the entire area between [the separation fence with] Israel and the neighborhood, and that is why they couldn’t be left standing. They also overlook the Israeli towns and allow for them to be shelled with mortars. At a certain point we understood it was a pattern: you leave a house and the house is gone – after two or three houses you figure out that there’s a pattern. The D9 comes and flattens it.

You saw this happen?

You see it. It’s close. We started in the northern part of the neighborhood and worked our way south. Every time we left a house – no more house. When we got out of there, there were only a few houses left standing.

What did the neighborhood look like when you left?

A hill of ruins, pretty much – lots of broken-up concrete, and sadly also large swaths of agricultural lands dug up by tanks. Some of the hardest sights were the chicken coops. Often there were reports that the tunnels (dug by Palestinian militants) were being dug inside greenhouses to camouflage them. The coops were inside these greenhouse type structures, which were also flattened by the D9s. You saw all kinds of chickens – sometimes inside the coop and sometime outside, and sometimes half in and half out, totally in pieces. A whole lot of farm animals were wandering around the neighborhood. Not really a neighborhood anymore. And when updated maps were issued after we left [the Gaza Strip], we saw the only two houses that remained standing when we left, marked on them.  

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