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Text testimonies “We are entering a war zone”
catalog number: 598532
Rank: Captain
Area: Gaza strip
period: 2014
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“We are entering a war zone”
Rank: Captain
Area: Gaza strip
period: 2014

The entire time, neither before the incursion nor during the incursion [to the Gaza Strip] were there any clearly defined rules of engagement. Rules of engagement are part of the combat procedure, it’s the first thing given to every company that goes in – and there were none.

They didn’t explain the rules of engagement, or what they said was unclear? They didn’t say, they didn’t touch the topic. During the briefing with the battalion commander on the night of the incursion, he was asked what the rules of engagement were, how we conduct ourselves, whom we shoot and whom we don’t. What he said was – and this was the general gist of things – “We are entering a war zone.” Meaning, what we prepared for during training – combat in urban areas. The IDF distributed flyers informing the residents of the areas that we were to enter, that the IDF was coming in, and that anyone remaining in the area was in effect sentencing themselves to death. That’s what was said. This, I think, was very reassuring for any soldier about to enter [the Gaza Strip]. Because A) you want to know the IDF is warning the residents. B) Combat in Gaza is very complicated because on the one hand there’s us [going in] and on the other hand the [Gaza] Strip is so small that the residents don’t really have anywhere to escape. I say this is reassuring as a soldier because if, for example, you want to know whether you can throw a grenade into a house [to protect] your life, you would rather know that you can do that.

Often rules of engagement also describe at whom you cannot shoot. Were there any instructions regarding civilians or uninvolved people? That was what was missing. There was no reference to it from higher up – from the battalion commander, say. I was waiting for this to come from higher up – and it didn’t. I remember that night I sat the guys down and told them what happens in the event of civilians. Officers held a meeting on how we define that issue to the soldiers. [Our definition was that] we would enter while shooting, enter a house with a grenade – the way it was defined – but ultimately we use our judgment if we run into a woman or child. We use our judgment and we don’t shoot. During operation ‘Pillar of Defense,’ I remember everything went by really fast – within 36 hours of being called up, we were geared up and ready to go, but even during that short period of time I remember that when we got to the staging area, someone said to me, “You’re an officer? Here,” and gave me a kit with maps and all kinds of booklets and formal IDF materials, and also a little booklet with instructions on how to deal with the civilian population. In that exact stage of the preparations, this kit [was something every commander was given]. I was given no such thing during [Operation] ‘Protective Edge.’

When you laid out rules of engagement for your soldiers, were you in effect violating, or contradicting the battalion commander’s orders?Yes, we contradicted the rules of engagement, but I think what we defined as regulations filled a certain vacuum. The rules of engagement were more or less that we were entering a war. We briefed the soldiers on [how to act while manning] posts, while inside houses, while defending themselves. We laid out rules of engagement using our common sense. If I remember correctly, we170defined a suspect arrest procedure (a procedure that dictates firing warning shots before directing fire at a suspect), a procedure that contradicts the directive of, “Anyone you see, you shoot.”Which was essentially the directive?Basically, yes.Shooting to kill?Yes.