I have collected statements from Israeli politicians and soldiers, as well as from human rights organisations, UN officials and other credible mainstream sources, which prove that Israel has deliberately targeted civilians in Lebanon and Gaza. This is intended as an educational resource.
Lebanon War (2006)
Death toll: 1,000 Lebanese civilians killed
- Just prior to the Israeli invasion, IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz threatened to “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years” (i.e. to when it was in the midst of a destructive, brutal civil war) if Hezbollah did not free the soldiers that it had captured.
- During the war, a senior officer in the Israeli Air Force told army radio that Halutz had ordered them to “destroy 10 multi-storey buildings in the Dahaya district (of Beirut) in response to every rocket fired on Haifa”.
- Within the final 72 hours of the war – after the UN Security Council had already passed a ceasefire resolution – Israel dropped more than 4 million cluster submunitions on south Lebanon. Entire villages were made uninhabitable. In their report ‘Flooding South Lebanon’, Human Rights Watch stated the following: “Based on their personal observations, experts from Human Rights Watch and the UN have judged the level and density of post-conflict contamination in south Lebanon to be far worse than that found in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Kosovo following the use of cluster munitions in those countries”. HRW further stated: “It is inconceivable that Israel, which has used cluster weapons on many previous occasions, did not know that that its strikes would have a lasting humanitarian impact”.
- A commander in the IDF told Haaretz: “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs”.
Blockade Of Gaza (2007-Present)
Death toll: 1,000 Palestinian civilians killed
- Dov Weisglass, advisor to then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, stated in 2006: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger”.
- Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated in 2008 after visiting Gaza: “Their whole civilisation has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating”.
- Also in 2008, Human Rights Watch called on the Israeli government “to immediately lift restrictions on the flow into Gaza of food, medicines, and other supplies essential for the well-being of the civilian population and to cease all measures that amount to collective punishment of the civilian population, including disruptions to the electricity supply and fuel cuts”.
- Amnesty International stated in 2010: “As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law”.
- Also in 2010, the Israeli human rights organisation Gisha published a partial list of items that Israel had prohibited from entering Gaza; these included cumin, coriander, jam, chocolate, biscuits and sweets, potato chips, dried fruit, fresh meat, fabric (for clothing), musical instruments, size A4 paper, toys, cattle and chicks.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross stated in 2012: “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law”.
- Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and specialist on Gaza’s economy, stated in 2016: “Innocent human beings, most of them young, are slowly being poisoned by the water they drink and likely by the soil in which they plant” [a reference to the fact that 97% of the water in Gaza is contaminated].
- Robert Piper, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, stated in 2017: “We talk about the unlivability of Gaza. When you’re down to two hours of power a day and you have 60 percent youth unemployment rates… that unlivability threshold has been passed quite a long time ago”.
- Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated in 2018 that the people of Gaza “are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death”.
Operation Cast Lead (2008-9)
Death toll: 1,200 Palestinian civilians killed
- During the operation, then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated: “Hamas now understands that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing”.
- The day after the operation ended, Livni stated: “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded”.
- Many testimonies from Israeli soldiers collected by the NGO Breaking The Silence reveal that they deliberately targeted civilians. One soldier stated: “You felt like a child playing around with a magnifying glass, burning up ants”.
- Another soldier stated: “If you’re not sure, kill. Fire power was insane… You see a house, a window, shoot at the window. You don’t see a terrorist there? Fire at the window. It was real urban warfare. This is the difference between urban warfare and a limited confrontation. In urban warfare, anyone is your enemy. No innocents”.
- Another soldier stated: “The amount of destruction there was incredible. You drive around those neighborhoods, and can’t identify a thing. Not one stone left standing over another. You see plenty of fields, hothouses, orchards, everything devastated. Totally ruined. It’s terrible. It’s surreal”.
- Another soldier stated: “Let’s say that the general approach was ‘we’re going off to war’ and I can swear I heard our brigade commander at least once, when sitting with us during maneuvers for a combatants’ talk around the campfire at Tze’elim at night – he happened to join us and we asked him what was going on in Gaza and what was to be expected, stuff like that, and he went so far as to say this was war and in war as in war, no consideration of civilians was to be taken. You shoot anyone you see. I’m paraphrasing here, not literally quoting, but the gist of the matter was very clear”.
- Another soldier stated: “In short, what shocked me was a talk we had with the commander of ***, he’s a colonel, and he gave our whole battalion a talk. The tone of it was really, first of all he started out with something like “Unfortunately we’re a democracy, so we can’t demolish Gaza to the extent that we’d really like.” Perhaps he didn’t actually say “unfortunately,” but he repeated, twice, that “the fact that we’re a democracy works against us, for the army cannot act as aggressively as it would like.” Then he said once again that we’re going into this operation aggressively, without… Usually in such talks the army, the commanders mention the lives of civilians and showing consideration to civilians. Here he didn’t even mention this. Just the brutality, go in there brutally… He said, “In case of any doubt, take down houses. You don’t need confirmation for anything, if you want'”.
Operation Protective Edge (2014)
Death toll: 1,500 Palestinian civilians killed
- Many testimonies from Israeli soldiers collected by the NGO Breaking The Silence reveal that they deliberately targeted civilians. One soldier stated: “The instructions are to shoot right away. Whoever you spot – be they armed or unarmed, no matter what. The instructions are very clear. Any person you run into, that you see with your eyes – shoot to kill. It’s an explicit instruction”.
- Another soldier stated: “Me personally, deep inside I mean, I was a bit bothered, but after three weeks in Gaza, during which you’re shooting at anything that moves – and also at what isn’t moving, crazy amounts – you aren’t anymore really… The good and the bad get a bit mixed up, and your morals get a bit lost and you sort of lose it, and it also becomes a bit like a computer game, totally cool and real”.
- Another soldier stated: “I remember that the level of destruction looked insane to me. It looked like a movie set, it didn’t look real. Houses with crumbled balconies, animals everywhere, lots of dead chickens and lots of other dead animals. Every house had a hole in the wall or a balcony spilling off of it, no trace left of any streets at all. I knew there used to be a street there once, but there was no trace of it left to see”.
- Another soldier stated: “We fired ridiculous amounts of fire, lots of it, and relatively speaking our fire was nothing. We had spike missiles (guided antitank missiles) and artillery, and there were three tanks with us at all times – and another two D9s (armored bulldozers). I don’t know how they pulled it off, the D9 operators didn’t rest for a second. Nonstop, as if they were playing in a sandbox. Driving back and forth, back and forth, razing another house, another street. And at some point there was no trace left of that street. It was hard to imagine there even used to be a street there at all. It was like a sandbox, everything turned upside down. And they didn’t stop moving. Day and night, 24/7, they went back and forth, gathering up mounds, making embankments, flattening house after house”.
- Another soldier stated: “There weren’t really any rules of engagement, it was more protocols. The idea was, if you spot something – shoot. They told us: “There aren’t supposed to be any civilians there. If you spot someone, shoot.” Whether it posed a threat or not wasn’t a question, and that makes sense to me. If you shoot someone in Gaza it’s cool, no big deal”.
- Another soldier stated: “When we first entered [the Gaza Strip] there was this ethos about Hamas – we were certain that the moment we went in our tanks would all be up in flames. But after 48 hours during which no one shoots at you and they’re like ghosts, unseen, their presence unfelt – except once in a while the sound of one shot fired over the course of an entire day – you come to realize the situation is under control. And that’s when my difficulty there started, because the formal rules of engagement – I don’t know if for all soldiers – were, “Anything still there is as good as dead. Anything you see moving in the neighborhoods you’re in is not supposed to be there. The [Palestinian] civilians know they are not supposed to be there. Therefore whoever you see there, you kill… Anything you see in the neighborhoods you’re in, anything within a reasonable distance, say between zero and 200 meters – is dead on the spot. No authorization needed'”.
- Another soldier stated: “There were no rules of engagement. If you see anyone in that area, that person is a terrorist”.
Great March of Return (2018-Present)
Death toll: 214 Palestinian civilians killed
- The UN Human Rights Council released a report in February 2019 which concluded that Israeli snipers intentionally shot children, health workers, journalists and disabled people.
- In that same report, the UN Human Rights Council described numerous cases wherein civilians were intentionally shot by Israeli snipers. For example: “Ibrahim Abu Shaar (17): On 30 March, Israeli forces shot Ibrahim, a candy seller from Rafah, in the back of the head as he walked away, approximately 100 m from the separation fence, after he and his companion threw stones at Israeli soldiers. He died almost instantly”.
- Another example: “Wisal Sheikh-Khalil (14): On 14 May, Israeli forces shot Wisal from the Maghazi refugee camp in the head when she was approximately 100 m from the separation fence, after she had approached it several times to hang a Palestinian flag there. She died instantly”.
- Another example: “Yasser Abu Naja (11): On 29 June, Israeli forces killed Yasser from Khan Younis with a shot to the head as he was hiding with two friends behind a bin, approximately 200 m from the separation fence. The children had been chanting national slogans at Israeli forces”.
- Another example: “Razan Najar (20): On 1 June, an Israeli sniper bullet hit Razan, of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and who at the time was wearing a white paramedic vest and standing with other volunteer paramedics approximately 110 m from the separation fence, in the chest at the Khuzaa site, east of Khan Younis. She died in hospital”.
- After dozens of civilians were killed by Israeli snipers, the IDF’s official Twitter account posted this statement: “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed”.
- In April 2018, then Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated: “You have to understand, there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip”.