We were in the area of al-Bureij, at the center of the [Gaza] Strip. When we entered for the first time we didn’t see a single person. We saw no enemy, and no [civilians] either. We went into houses, some of which were already riddled with holes. [The forces that entered the area before us] purposely left a few standing for us, so we ‘opened’ them up the way we were taught to in urban area combat training. We broke down the door, entered, ‘cleaned’ the house with bullets; you walk in shooting. In the beginning you shoot [across a wide area] in a fan, ‘open’ anything that looks weird, you roll up carpets, move things around to make sure there’s absolutely nothing there. The house was totally abandoned. In most places [IDF] soldiers also shot the water tanks (usually located on rooftops). Why?
Don’t know. When I got to the houses that’s how it was. How is a house sweep carried out?
First thing, before you even enter, you shoot at certain spots. I would shoot – from behind a barrier of some sort – at dangerous spots: closets, beds that might be concealing something underneath them or inside them, inside the mattress. You shoot at everything, even refrigerators. As for [cooking] gas canisters, we didn’t shoot them – we took them out and emptied the gas. Besides packs of cigarettes, we didn’t find anything valuable. One could say those cigarettes saved some people’s sanity, because there was a day we ran out. And then we stayed put in the house and secured ourselves. “You are guarding the tanks,” they told us, but we didn’t really guard a single tank. We sat around in Gaza and took it easy. We surveyed. They gave us locations to watch. We were staying in abandoned houses. The people’s stuff was left inside, but not things like electrical appliances. They must have taken everything – they fled. I did not see any casualties that were not clearly enemies there, because everyone was told to flee north from the very start. That’s what we knew. They left their houses closed up tight. It was clear that people had been preparing for our entry. [When we went in] we turned the houses upside down, because there was no other choice, you had to. We found weapons. What was really awful was seeing lots of animals that they had left behind, their personal pets, they fled without them. People left their dogs behind – it was a pretty awful sight. You would see dogs with collars on. It was clear these were pets, not guard dogs. We looked after them as much as we could, but I’m sure the dogs there just died. We saw lots of animals there – farm animals, too. Entire groups of ducks and chickens. The animals didn’t know a war was coming. It’s not some natural disaster, they can’t sense it coming. We saw carcasses too. Mostly carcasses belonging to large animals, like donkeys.