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Text testimonies Taking down houses
catalog number: 82846
Rank: Captain
Unit: Other
Area: Gaza strip
period: 2004
10,291  views    0  comments
Taking down houses

When did this happen, more or less?Mid-2004. These situations are really problematic, they're inconceivable. I say the worst, the most problematic are the routine actions that provoke more hatred than all the other kinds. I mean, entering a house unjustifiably. In Gaza, for example, the decision about which house to demolish is flippant, you won't believe to what extent. It is taken at very low echelons. I mean by a lieutenant.

A lieutenant is a guy who could be two and a half years into his army service?Yes, come on, you are designated an area. The guy in charge of army D-9 bulldozers comes along, and tells you, "Come on, come on now, what about those houses over there?" He looks at your map, points to, "1203, 1204, what about these? What about these? Well, do I take them down? Take them down?"

Why take them down?You consider your mission and want to have maximum visibility. So you say, "Yes, take them down."

What's "your mission"?Making sure that… really, draw two lines, a kind of strip. Now in this strip, no one moves. Armed, unarmed – no one moves. No one. I guess we're trying to put a stop to Qassam launchings, clean out an area. Now there are houses there that get in your line of vision, so you take them down.

How is it done?Never mind taking them down.

But how?Someone comes to you and says, "Wait, take down this house and that house?" So you answer him, "Yes, take down this one and that one". So he says, "What about that one? No? That one… Okay, I'll take down that one for you, too." Now, this is the home of a family. When I talk about houses, I mean they're homes. We're not talking about greenhouses here. I mean, greenhouses are a source of livelihood for the people who… windowed greenhouse. I don't know if there are farmers here, who will probably be alarmed to hear, but with greenhouses the D-9s are not even specifically instructed to take down, they simply take them down.

Extend authority?Yes, dozens of dunams of greenhouses. This is long-term damage. Someone paid for these greenhouses. Someone makes a living out of them, tries to live. Now, how do you take down a house? You see shocking things. More than that, how do you enter a house? How do you enter a house in Gaza? You're not just going to enter a house, let's face it, you're afraid. So first a D-9 comes along and…

Talk me through this: How do you do a "straw widow"?That's when you take over a house, camouflaged, people don't know you're there, and if something develops you are able to respond.

So tell me how it worked in your own unit.Nowadays, we're afraid to enter a house. It's not like in the West Bank, any force can be targeted, and because of this fear, a D-9 is brought along, it's bullet-proof, and it digs a ditch all around, 360 degrees. It's like an anti-tank ditch. It breaks a hole in the house wall with its shovel… Sounds like it's breaking a door in, but actually it's breaking the whole wall. This break takes place while the people are still inside.

What do you mean? I can be sitting at home and… you're talking about the home of a terrorist? A wanted man?No, not a wanted man, a house. That you need to take over because you've decided it's strategically situated.

Just a moment, I'm sitting at home. Suddenly you see the shovel of a bulldozer and you've got a hole in your house wall.I'm talking proportion to you, you see families coming out with these white rags, with their children, and a white rag, waving it so that they won't be shot by the army because they've been chased out of their home. You see them there like a row of ducks. So families come out holding these rags in order not to be shot by the soldiers because they're walking where they're not supposed to be seen walking, because the area is… under curfew, one must not be seen walking around in it. So they walk with a white flag because they have been driven out of their homes. I suppose this happens following large terrorist attacks. I mean, it happens very rarely, that one suddenly digs a ditch around a home and… Whenever the army decides to clean up a strip.

Once every two months? I mean, very seldom, to very specific houses, I take it?No, not that seldom.

When does it happen?When Qassams are launched.

But Qassams are launched every day?Yes. It happens when the army decides to go in. That's what it does in Gaza.

You think it's a necessary measure that stops Qassams?I think that in order to stop the Qassams every action should be taken, but not to hurt the… not to compromise dignity and property to such an extent. These actions can be carried out differently. I mean, if a house has to be requisitioned, they can be told to leave, with loudspeakers, or not to demolish the whole house before entering it.

Why is this not done?When we asked – after all "straw widow" is supposed to be covert – we said, "Wait, but the whole house will be seen anyway. People will realize we've entered this house." So we were told, yes, we do this to another 3-4 houses which will not be entered. That makes a lot of sense, to show that… So people will not know where exactly the army is, so another four houses are demolished for nothing. A ditch is dug around them… Same procedure. Dig, demolish… Take the shovel in broad daylight… Take out the families.

The families must not enter the house for how long?Ever.

What do you mean, "ever"? How does it work? I'm a family. My home is broken up with a shovel, I realize I must evacuate, I go out holding a white rag, I come back tomorrow? When do I return?You return, I think…

Do I ever return?You return if you want to see the… Yes, I think you return to see what your house looks like after all of this, but you… you're not told when. You are simply sent away. Go, go. Go to your cousins. Go to your family. Just go. It's horrible.

So when I hear on the radio that "The IDF has razed so and so square kilometers…" what am I supposed to understand? This is what you understand. You understand it has demolished buildings in order to open up a field of vision. You understand that it did so to another 3-4 buildings for nothing, and that is just one unit. Think about controlling such an area, covering the whole region. You need at least eight units. Make a simple calculation how many houses are being demolished. Eight times four. Something like that.

In one mission following a Qassam launching.Yes.

That's not a little.No, for nothing. None of these people are terrorists. Now you put it right, there's shooting, it must be stopped, but I want to emphasize the lack of control. When I stood there and saw how things were done, I wondered: Is there any serious authority around here? At least a battalion commander, taking the decision to demolish a house? This line of battalion commanders, as is now the custom in the Israeli army, are saying: This is your designated area, you decide what to do. Because it creates… perhaps people like you and me would try to destroy as little as possible, but there are people who are capable of sowing devastation as much as they please. Every house is a world unto itself. Think everyone should think of their own home. Here, my home has been demolished. So if it's a must, let it be, but if not then I ask, I'm asking here: if this is how a controlled army functions, an army that considers itself really under control. I think it is, too, but not enough. First of all, it's terrible that Qassams are being launched, but the IDF… I witnessed uncontrolled action. If at least we would exert control, do it as sterile as possible, they would at least understand that it's sterile. Well, at least they would think: The Israelis have a right to defend themselves and they do it as locally and minimally as… But here there's no minimum consideration, if a lieutenant decides that this and this goes, then the tractor driver says, "Okay I'll down this one and that one for you, and that one too."

And finally he takes them down? He takes them down.Sure he does.

Who's the driver of that tractor?Some sergeant.

A 19-year old kid?Yes. He tells his commander, himself a first sergeant, "Listen, I'll take down for you this and that and that one, looks like they're in the way." If you're a commander with a lot of patience, you tell him, "No, no way"… But you don't have the patience, nor the time. You have to look out for your men. Sometimes he takes them down. And the areas, the dunams of greenhouses being razed. So if it's done in a very controlled manner… But first of – no. And then it must be done with more control, and we don't. .. What happens now is that the way we do it plays much more into the hands of evil, and the results are opposite the ones we want. I mean, they create a lot more hatred and a lot more anger.