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What does the IDF have to hide about the Gaza killings?

The Israeli army is claiming that at least 12 of the 60 Palestinians it killed in Gaza on Monday were attacking soldiers when they were shot, but it refuses to answer why it killed the other 48. (Updated below.)

Mourners carry the body of 15-year old Palestinian Jamal Afana, during his funeral in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on May 13, 2018. Jamal who was shot in the head by Israeli forces near Rafah in southern Gaza on May 11, succumbed to his wounds the next day. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Mourners carry the body of 15-year old Palestinian Jamal Afana, during his funeral in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on May 13, 2018. Jamal who was shot in the head by Israeli forces near Rafah in southern Gaza on May 11, succumbed to his wounds the next day. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Israeli soldiers killed 60 Palestinian protesters on Monday in Gaza’s bloodiest day since the 2014 war. Over the course of the last month and half, the IDF killed an additional 49 Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and wounded thousands more with live fire.

In late march, just hours after Israeli snipers killed 17 protesters on the first day of the Gaza Return March, the IDF Spokesperson tweeted: “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”

The tweet was later deleted, perhaps because of requests form journalists that the army explain specific bullets — for example, the one that struck and killed an unarmed man running away from the border fence, or the killing of journalists Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein — that the army could not, or would not, explain.

Fast forward to this week. Since the 60 killings on Monday, the army has issued a series of dramatic messages about having stopped “terrorists.”

The army spokesperson claimed on Monday that it had killed 12 people who allegedly fired on Israeli soldiers from Gaza or attempted to plant explosive devices along the border fence — but said nothing about why it killed the 48 other Palestinians and wounded thousands of others.

On Tuesday, the army sent the following message to journalists (my translation):

After the most recent review by the IDF and the General Security Services (the Shin Bet, h.m.), at least 25 terrorists with a background in organized terror activities were killed during the violent public disturbances on May 14. Most of the casualties belong to Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

This message obscures more than it clarifies. It raises two main questions.

First, is the army claiming that those whom it killed posed an immediate threat at the time they were shot, or that they were simply card-carrying members of a terrorist organization, which the IDF could not have known at the time soldiers opened fire, and which alone would not justify killing them?

Second, if the army knows that 25 of the Palestinians it killed were terrorists, what about the other 35 people it killed? How does it justify their deaths?

I sent these two questions to the IDF Spokesperson’s unit. They responded simply that they have no intention of answering these questions. The Seventh Eye, an investigative journalism site, similarly asked the IDF Spokesperson about the killing and wounding of journalists in Gaza; they did not receive any answers either.

The Gaza border area is heavily surveilled by Israeli cameras. Military drones send additional aerial photos of the area. Sixty Palestinians are dead — where are the images that show the threat that each one presented? Where are the pictures of the armed and dangerous terrorists whom Israeli soldiers had no choice but to shoot? Generally, when the IDF has damning footage, it doesn’t hesitate to publish it.

These questions demand answers, but the army does not feel the need to respond. The reason, at least partly, may be because there isn’t enough of a demand from the public. Most Israeli media outlets never challenge the necessity of the killing and accept as a given the need to shoot — and kill — unarmed protesters. The public, it seems, feels similarly. And that is precisely the problem.

Update (May 16, 2018):
A Hamas official on Tuesday claimed that 50 of the people killed by the Israeli army in Gaza on Monday were members of the Islamist organization. That does not change anything. The retroactive revelation that a large majority of the dead were members of Hamas — information that was not known to the soldiers pulling the trigger and nor to the rest of the military or Shin Bet — doesn’t change the question of whether they should have been shot. If a Hamas member approached the fence and wasn’t armed and didn’t pose a threat to anyone then it is still not justifiable to kill them. The retroactive discovery that he is a Hamas member does not change that one bit.

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    COMMENTS

      • brightdark

        He was wearing ‘hospital greens’? No Red Cross/Crescent? That is NOT being marked as a doctor.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          If you read the article all the way through I think it is clear that the Israeli snipers who calmly targeted him and hundreds of others around him through their scopes knew very well what they were targeting. You are implying actually a level of incompetence among Israeli military snipers that is quite shocking. Which is it then? Incompetence or murderous callousness?

          Reply to Comment
    1. Ben

      What Israel finds intolerable, and against which it feels entitled to use lethal force to defend itself against is not an actual physical threat to its territory or its people, but the threat of humiliation. It is the same thing it found intolerable in the case of Ahed Tamimi–it felt humiliated and for that Tamimi is being punished as no Jewish person ever has been or would be for the same behavior. We saw Israeli men go into paroxysms of shame and rage and vengeance-seeking directed at a 17 year old girl, as if the world was ending. What horrifies Israel is the threat of being humiliated by a bunch of Palestinian civilians breaching the fence and running around chaotically on the other side for a while. It is this humiliation (as Israel sees it) and publicity victory for the Palestinian cause that Israel will not tolerate and it is evidently willing to shoot unarmed demonstrators to prevent it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Another example of Ben’s twisted thinking here.
        Does Ben not realize the aim of these Jihadis is to penetrate the border and murder Israelis in the Kibbutzim ??
        That is why Hamas is an Islamic extermist organization.
        Its in their nature to murder.
        That is why Israel is war with them.

        Reply to Comment
    2. This is something connected to the culture that has been planted in the minds of the Israelis over the past decades. Simply they are the chosen people (superiors) defending their supreme God granted right over this Land. those whom they fight are inferior enemies whose lives are no match to those of the superiors, and why not the army’s bullets can land anywhere in their bodies….. and at the end of the day they are “poor dirty inferiors” and they are ridding humanity of their evil. This is a call to the Israelis to try to change this mentality to stop giving the others the impression that the Israelis are a bunch of arrogant ruthless fools who think that they are God chosen people.

      Reply to Comment
      • Yirmiyahu Szanton

        Jamil, If you had a deeper idea of the “Chosen People” it would probably help. It is not a modern concept and neither is it a concept held exclusively by Jews regarding themselves. Japanese and Arapaho Indians also hold that they are “Chosen”. But what does the Chosen People mean in Judaism? It means that the Jews were chosen to be a Holy Nation: that is, one that, because of it’s moral standards and ritual purity, it would be fullfilling the commandments of the contract with God. OK?

        Reply to Comment
        • Jami

          Dear Yirimyahu, I have no intention whatsoever to offend anyone regardless of religion, race or any other characteristics, and certainly I have no intention to offend the Jewish people. having said that I owe you an explanation of what I meant. I was talking about a cultural issue that make “a few or a little bit more” Israelis categorize people as inferiors and superiors on the basis of power and wealth and with no relation to spiritual concepts and beliefs. I am a believer and I do not think that God allows killings in his name, and certainly those who pulled the trigger in Gaza did not do so for the sake of God but rather for the sake of a conviction that the “others’ blood” is not as important.

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Actually, Yirmiyahu Szanton, it would help if the Jews of Israel had a deeper idea of the Chosen People.

          Jamil does not need lectures on what is the deeper idea. He needs evidence of that deeper idea. He needs that deeper idea enacted in real life. The Jews of Israel have been giving him a deep lesson to the contrary. Because right now they are running around acting for all the world as if the idea is to arrogantly lord it over others and practice Jewish supremacism, pretty much racism.

          Do you think Jamil needs an abstractly reassuring lesson that Jews, categorically, mean well when actual Israeli Jews teach him the opposite on a daily basis? And then he needs to be condescended to as someone who just doesn’t get it?

          “Moral standards and ritual purity?” Yes? And the brutal occupation and subjugation of another people and the outright theft of their land, this is the standard and the pureness? This is holy? This constitutes the faith and practices of a “Holy Nation”? This is fulfilling the contract with God? On what tablets of stone was this handed down from Mount Sinai?

          Who is a good Jew? Who is closer to God? Noam Sheizaf and Michael Omer-Man and Orly Noy? Or Naftali Bennet and Ayalet Shaked and Avigdor Leiberman? I think I know the answer. Do you?

          Reply to Comment

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