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Text testimonies “Why should he be on the street at 5 A.M..”, plus he’s walking fast, so he's a terrorist
catalog number: 227821
Area: Gaza strip
period: December 2008 - January 2009
1,240  views    0  comments
“Why should he be on the street at 5 A.M..”, plus he’s walking fast, so he's a terrorist
Area: Gaza strip
period: December 2008 - January 2009

I'm more concerned about the routine, the normal way in which things run, and less about the exceptions to the rule. Part of the problem with that operation was the grounds for it, for the measures used and all that. When is it easier for the army spokesperson to deal with testimonies like the ones you publish? When, say, some crazy guy got bored on guard duty and saw an old lady and, like in the testimonies from the pre-military school (testimonies of graduates from the Rabin Pre-Military School published in Ha’aretz newspaper in March 2009), he fired or he didn't fire. Let's say it was the most justified war in the world and the means used were the most fair in the world, and you looked after Palestinian civilians as best you could – still, there will always be those three or four or ten nutcases. POWs were killed in Israel's most moral of wars. Statistically, it's just like there's crime on the streets, there’s no other way to deal with that. That's why I'm less interested in that, no offense. The fact that some nutcase reacts the way he does hides what I think is the real problem here, which is the way the whole thing is run. Apart from the insane bombings from the air, where you could say you were bombing an ammunition base that’s right in the middle of a civilian population and you didn't mean to kill the old lady sitting nearby, and your hands are clean – the actual way it’s run today is such that the soldier in the field has much less of a say upon entry than those at headquarters. That’s why I emphasized that I've been in the army for years, because that’s the fundamental, huge change in the way the IDF does combat, which is much more significant when you’re talking about combat within civilian populations, against something unclear that we’re fighting, like the Palestinians.

You mean not a defined army with divisions, etc…? Yes. I'm saying that if the means we have were used in a war with Syria, and there’s a platoon sitting in a Syrian outpost and you take it down with a preemptive strike using all your sophisticated technology, without your soldiers on the ground having to go into combat, then you've spared human lives, you actually killed or harmed a platoon which you know is part of an army. Perhaps, if you do that, you’ll make that army re-deploy, retreat, and you’ll get results… The situation that I want to describe is the following: the degree of implication. You've got fighter aircraft and that enables you… And the army's code of ethics is explicitly mentioned in the orders.

What do you mean?Literally: zero risk to soldiers.

What does that mean?If we know that tomorrow morning, the guys have to go north or go into a marked area, then the night before you scan the place with aircraft and check for any movements on the ground. You don't always see them, but if you do see something suspect, you don't take it down immediately – it could be a dog – but threshold of implication is very low. We’ve taken the idea of targeted killing and turned it upside down. For a targeted killing, you need Shabak (Israel Security Agency) intelligence, you send something to take a person down in real time, because you know he's on his way to plan a terrorist attack. Here you do the opposite: first you take him down, and then you try and find out who he was. The assumption is: “Why should he be on the street at 5 A.M..”, plus he’s walking fast, so he's a terrorist. They're all terrorists. If he's walking slowly, it's an old man. You see children and old people.

You can see clearly enough to distinguish women and children from men?Yes.

You can see well enough at night to tell them apart?It doesn't matter whether it’s day or night…

You can tell the difference between a man and a woman?Yes. You can tell by the clothes. You can see a rifle, but you can't see a revolver, for instance.

So they don't have to be armed to become a legitimate target?On the contrary, this is how it works: they (Hamas) have broken the rules. In the normal game, you're supposed to kill men in uniform, but the minimum is for them to be carrying arms. They've broken the rules, because they've taken off their uniforms and hidden their weapons. So how can we kill them? That’s why, if you see five-six men who look like they're conferring inside a … I'm talking about something I saw, our guys immediately get excited about it and start following them. Two men walking down the street, on their way they pass a mosque and you see a gathering of women and children and someone walking with a donkey and you saw that they left that house, and they’re not walking together but one after the other, so you begin to fantasize that they're walking up against walls. In the end, they shot one of them.

Why, because he was armed?No, he wasn’t armed. They shot him because he was at a place that was marked as a spot that we watch at night, and because of the [warnings] announced earlier, there was no reason for him to be hanging out there, certainly not five-six men who don't exactly look like they're playing backgammon. So what you conclude from this – admittedly not on a sound basis – is that these guys are up to no good. That’s why I thought it was super unreliable. A really low threshold for implicating someone. I’m telling you, it’s logical to implicate someone who’s laying explosives. There are types of behavior that are suspicious.

Like someone crawling along at night.Exactly. There are some things that you see. But in the center of a village, someone comes out of a courtyard where he’s been with a group of people and walks somewhere else very fast, I don't know. He could be walking fast because he's afraid… The attitude is that wherever the soldiers have to enter now, I don't take any risks because that's exactly the doctrine, zero risk...

Can you describe what happened from beginning to end?There was a case of five men detected inside an inner courtyard of a house. They couldn't be taken down there, for technical reasons. You see two of them come out and you start watching them, they're walking pretty fast, or there’s three of them and one parts ways with them at some point, so eventually there’s two of them walking through some crowd that's just leaving morning prayers, or something like that.

It's a residential neighborhood?Yes and no, because they walked quite a distance. At the spot where they were, no one else was detected. I'm talking really early morning. I don't remember when it was, but it was really early, probably between five and six a.m.

This was an area where fighting took place?There was supposed to be fighting in that area the next day… These guys started walking fast, they weren’t walking together and seemed to be sticking close to walls, they walked on sidewalks, not on the road itself. The second guy wasn’t shot, I don't remember why, just the one was targeted. He began to run at some point, must have heard the means (the weapon used to shoot him). The Shabak (Israel Security Agency) guy claimed that the very fact that he heard it implicates him, because a normal civilian wouldn’t have realized that he was being chased. Finally he was shot, and there were no other people around. He wasn’t shot next to the mosque when he passed by it. Usually it's taken for granted that you don’t just fire into a gathering of people.