A week or two after we entered the Gaza Strip and we were all firing a lot when there wasn’t any need for it –just for the sake of firing – a member of our company was killed. I remember it happened on Friday afternoon and we – my force, which is a tank platoon, we were separated from the rest of the company, not connected to them physically or in terms of missions – we were with an engineering force doing something else, and the rumors started flowing our way. They started saying that some guys were injured, some guys maybe killed, seriously injured, and the game of where and who-knows-what-happened got going. The company commander came over to us and told us that one guy was killed due to such-and-such, and he said, “Guys, get ready, get in your tanks, and we’ll fire a barrage in memory of our comrade.” In the meantime the platoon stood in a sort of stationary circle, people were crying, people also broke some windows in the area with their weapons, and we got in the tanks and started them up. And the platoon commander asked the company commander, “We are preparing for engagement, OK?” ‘Engagement,’ that is, a tank firing at something. The company commander says, “Authorized, at your own time.” We went up, my tank went up to the post – a place from which I can see targets, can see buildings, can ensure that I can fire at them, and the platoon commander says, “OK guys, we’ll now fire in memory of our comrade,” and we said OK. Throughout the entire operation there was a sort of building far away near the coastline, around 4.5 kilometers from us, a building that nobody really even knew where it was located. I don’t even know what neighborhood that was. It wasn’t a threat to us, it had nothing to do with anybody, it wasn’t part of the operation, it was out by the sea, far away from anything and from any potential threat – but that building was painted orange, and that orange drove my eyes crazy the entire time. I’m the tank gunner, I control all the weapons systems, I have the sights and I’m the guy who actually fires and sees everything that happens, and the whole week or two, that orange was driving my eyes crazy. So I told my platoon commander: “I want to fire at that orange house,” and he told me: “Cool, whatever you feel like,” and we fired. We fired at a distance of 4.5 kilometers, a shell that’s supposed to be used against tanks – it’s not useful for anything else, it’s not meant to harm people, only tanks, and we were just firing at that orange house because it was orange.
Did your guys discuss it later? The bit about shelling purposelessly? No, because when you look at the bigger picture, that’s something we were doing all the time. We were firing purposelessly all day long. Hamas was nowhere to be seen – it’s not like they stood up on some roof for you holding a sign that says, ‘We are Hamas militants.’ You have no idea what’s going on, and because you don’t, your human nature is to be scared and ‘over’ defensive, so you ‘overshoot.’ And no one discusses that because it goes without saying that everyone wants to… And the rules of engagement were pretty easy-going – I was shocked when I first heard them.
*In response to the publication of this testimony, the rightwing pro-occupation organization Ad Kan filed a defamation suit against us, together with two former soldiers who claim to have served in the unit described in the testimony. The defamation suit was filed against Breaking the Silence and a former soldier who the plaintiffs claim gave the testimony. They claim that the testimony is allegedly false and that events unfolded otherwise, and that what took place was legal. When we receive the official documents pertaining to the lawsuit we will publish them here.