Military officials tell Israeli army to refrain from killing spree in Gaza

Acts of unjustified force and looting can become criminal cases, warns Israeli military lawyer

Israeli soldiers in Gaza have been warned against 'conduct that deviates from the values and orders' of the military. AP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

Senior Israeli military officials are warning the army to avoid "a killing spree" and act within the law, after more than four months of a wide-scale air and ground campaign aimed at destroying Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The offensive, which has killed more than 29,400 Palestinians, has drawn near daily international condemnation.

The top lawyer of Israel's military, Maj Gen Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, warned soldiers late on Wednesday against involvement in cases of "unacceptable conduct" in the Gaza Strip.

The army has been battling the Palestinian militant group across Gaza in the war ignited by Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, with about 240 civilians taken hostage.

In a letter titled Fighting and Victory According to the Law, the general acknowledged the “complex characteristics” of the war but said she had “come across improper cases of conduct that deviate from ... values and orders" of Israel's military.

"We have encountered cases of unacceptable conduct that deviate from [the Israeli army's] values and protocols," Maj Gen Tomer-Yerushalmi said.

These included "inappropriate statements that encourage unacceptable phenomena; unjustified use of force, including against detainees; looting, which includes the use or removal of private property for non-operational purposes; and destruction of civilian property contrary to protocols," she said in the letter.

Some of these examples “went beyond the disciplinary sphere and cross the threshold into the criminal”. They have no place in the national army and have caused Israel “strategic damage” internationally, she added.

Some of the cases are under review and her office will decide whether to take action against the commanders involved, she said.

Chief of Staff Lt Gen Herzi Halevi on Tuesday told troops the army was “not on a killing spree", nor acting out of revenge or carrying out genocide in the Gaza Strip.

“We still have a long way to go,” Lt Gen Halevi said. Israel was fighting “a long and just war. Every move is very important, every local achievement is part of realising the goals of the war. Do it with determination and professionalism.”

Lt Gen Halevi said the army must "act like human beings and, unlike our enemy, maintain our humanity".

"We must be careful not to use force where it is not required, to distinguish between a terrorist and those who are not, not to take anything that is not ours – a souvenir or weapons – and not to film revenge videos,” he said.

Updated: February 23, 2024, 5:29 AM