The IDF deliberately chooses to attack the families of Hamas activists. This is a war crime. Shall every Hebrew mother know, that her son serves in a terrorist organization.[1]

“Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, this is the news broadcast. Az Adin Al-Kassam fighters took responsibility this morning for the bombing of the house of Captain Motti, an IDF platoon commander, in Hanarkisim Street in Tel Aviv. Captain Motti’s wife, Ariela, was killed in the bombing, along with Yair, his 2 years old son, Sigalit, his 1 year old daughter, Shlomit, Motti’s 64 years old mother, and Yaron, a 23 year old neighbor, who was just visiting the family. Three nearby apartments on Hanarkisim Street caught fire, and eight neighbors were hospitalized with varying degrees of injury. According to Hamas’ statement, they did know that Captain Motti was not at the time present in the house. The bombing, they say, was necessary in order to clarify to Captain Motti — whom they consider a wanted terrorist for participating in the bombing of a tunnel in Gaza — that he has no home to return to.”

Of course, the statement is fictional. Does it sound ridiculous to you?

This is exactly the type of announcement that the IDF has started to release to the press in the last couple of days. Of course, the military makes sure to do so incognito: anonymous “senior officers” release statements to the press. Here is, for example, a recent report from Yisrael Hayom, the Prime Minister Office’s semi-official spokes-agency:

“Israel enhanced yesterday the operation in Gaza, hoping to force Hamas commanders to blink first and plead for a cease fire. As part of this initiative, the military decided to double the number of targets attacked. Attacks now include deliberate strikes of the private homes of all the commanders of Hamas fighters in Gaza, Han Yunnes and Rafach. The idea is clear: to create a ‘losing price’ and pressure of family members, who would be scarred to lose their whole world.” (My emphasis –Y.G.) [2]

Nachum Barnea wrote this morning something similar in Yediot Acharonot:

“The Egyptian military, which did not fight the tunnels in the days of Mubarak and Morsi, manages to eliminate them in the days of General Sissi. A house under which a tunnel is discovered is destroyed — together with its inhabitants. The prospering smuggling industry, which has sustained Hamas and enabled its armament initiatives, was fatally injured.” [3]

Indeed a “senior officer in the Israeli Air-Force” said something very similar to Haaretz. In other words, the IDF is intentionally briefing the media about its current house-destruction policy: they are intentionally sending a message. Of course, it is important to notice: Nachum Barnea doesn’t quote his sources. Haaretz is quoting a “senior Air-Force officer,” and Yisrael Hayom speaks of “senior officers in the IDF and the Shin Bet.” Why, if this briefing is so intentional, doesn’t the IDF’s spokesmen announce them? Why does no senior IDF officer take responsibility for this policy?

Because this policy is a war crime. An officer who would stand behind it would target himself for future international lawsuits. It is legitimate for the IDF to attack military targets, but the targets they are now shooting are clearly civilian. It is not a Hamas commander — but his family members — that they shoot, using them to put pressure on Hamas and on him. Less politely put, the IDF is taking his family as hostages, and is killing these hostages in large numbers.

IAF F-16I Sufa of the 107th Squadron ("The Knights of the Orange Tail Squadron") preparing for take-off during Operation Cast Lead © Yosi Yaari | Hebrew Wikipedia
IAF F-16I Sufa of the 107th Squadron (“The Knights of the Orange Tail Squadron”) preparing for take-off during Operation Cast Lead, Dec. 2008 © Yosi Yaari | Hebrew Wikipedia

As Betzelem pointed out earlier in this campaign — and before the killing of many more civilian casualties — a flying IDF terrorist used this morning a multi-million jet-fighter to kill Nur Marwan Almajidi, another 10 year old girl, from Rafach. All Palestinian casualties are now 105 (150 by the time of translation). Private houses are not a legitimate military target. Behind the balanced words, “violation of international humanitarian law,” there’s another concept, which is more to the point: war crime.

In earlier days, the IDF had a permanent excuse: it said that the killing of Palestinian civilians is never intentional, that the military only targets areas from which rockets are shot, despite knowing that civilians might be killed. The claim was, and still is: Hamas is hiding behind civilians. The IDF, up until recently, always insisted that it is not interested in the killing of civilians — the civilians only insist on getting into the route of its missiles and bombs.

Much Israeli propaganda used to ride on this alleged moral difference between the IDF and Hamas: while Hamas is shooting at Israeli civilians and is hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the IDF protects Israeli civilians and only kills Palestinians as a side effect. The IDF, Israeli thinkers, and Israeli propaganda vehicles built a whole moral theory surrounding the alleged legitimacy of this fighting code. Somehow, the numbers, i.e., the fact that the IDF kills about 100 Palestinian civilians for every 1 Israeli civilian casualty, were successfully not included in this moral theory. But now, something new is occurring. Killing civilians is not anymore announced as a mistake — it is now a policy. Now the IDF has stopped the pretending and the make believe. If Hamas is shooting inaccurate weapons into civilian populations, but can claim to its defense that it doesn’t have accurate weaponry (to be sure, this wouldn’t help: this too is a war crime), the IDF is using accurate weapons and is now finally confessing that it uses them to target civilians.

This shouldn’t surprise us. The IDF’s fighting philosophy has always included targeting civilians. The famous Retaliation Operations, which still stand at the heart of the IDF’s fighting ethos, were deliberate attacks on Palestinian civilian villagers, attempting “to put pressure on the PLO and the other resistance movements,” or in clearer words: to terrorize the Palestinians.

In the fifties, the Israeli Air Force hijacked a civilian Syrian airplane in order to negotiate the release of a few Israeli intelligence officers who were caught after crossing the border to Syria. It is possible that this was the first hijacking of a civilian airplane (a method then used by Palestinians against Israelis repeatedly). The Prime Minister at the time, Moshe Sharet, was shocked when he heard of the hijacking and immediately instructed the IDF to release the hostages: but this does not change the fact that the IDF acted as a terrorist organization, and that this expressed something of a broader mentality.

In the War of Attrition on the Egyptian border, after the IDF failed answering the Egyptian’s persistence attack on its outposts in the Sinai Desert, it started to bomb and shell the Egyptian towns on the Suez Canal — that is, it transferred the fighting to civilians.

Similarly, in 1982 Beirut, our flying fighters killed thousands of uninvolved civilians. More or less the whole Israeli strategy in Southern Lebanon, culminating in operations such as Din VeChshbon and Invey Zaam, was based on targeting civilians: we will shoot the Shi’ite villagers; they will in turn put pressure on Beirut, which will in turn put pressure on Hezbollah. The IDF didn’t know how to deal with Hezbollah directly, and its commanders were fed-up losing on the battlefield.

A Palestinian home after demolition by Israeli military forces © 2006 joeskillet | Flickr
A Palestinian home after demolition by Israeli military forces © 2006 joeskillet | Flickr

The same logic is active now. The IDF doesn’t know how to effectively hit Hamas commanders, and it is reluctant to send troops in. In order to overcome this “dilemma,” it bombs their private homes from the air and kills their families. This policy is more wide-ranging than commonly imagined: according to details released by the OCHA (the UN’s humanitarian coordination agency), the Israeli Air Force has demolished in the current campaign 70 houses, along with 342 living unites that were severely hit. Approximately 2000 people became homeless as a result. Furthermore, Israeli fighters also attacked 5 clinics and injured 18 medical workers. These data were released 3 days ago.

Israel would have demanded international outrage, for a good reason, if Hamas had started blowing up private houses of IDF officers, especially if Hamas knew full well that the officers were not there at the time of bombing. Israel would have argued, again, correctly, that this is terrorism. But this is exactly the policy that Israel now adopts. If you didn’t have enough reasons to refuse serving in the IDF, here is the most recent one. Service in the IDF is direct and indirect cooperation with a policy of taking hostages and killing them. Shall every Hebrew mother know that she is sending her son to serve in a terrorist organization.


[1] “Shall every Hebrew mother know, that her son serves under commanders who are worthy of commanding” is a slogan coined by Ben-Gurion and still widely in use by Israeli commanders, for example in the IDF officer-training programs.

[2] Israel Hayom [Israel Today] is a daily that was created by Netanyahu’s right wing American donor, Shledon Edelson. Its editors are unmistakably biased in supporting Netanyahu — in security and diplomatic issues, but also in internal Israeli politics. It is one of the most read newspapers in Israel.

[3] Top mainstream Israeli journalist, working in Yediot Acharonot, Israel’s largest circulating centrist daily newspaper.

This article first appeared in Friends of George and was translated from the original Hebrew by Omri Boehm. All footnotes are by the translator.