December 30, 2007
Here’s Brigadier General (res.) Zvika Fogel, former chief of staff of the IDF Southern Command headquarters in the run-up to the second intifada, describing how the 'purest army in the world’ crushed Palestinian resistance in Gaza:
'"One of the means Southern Command adopted in order to avert attacks on Israelis was to declare death zones in the Gaza Strip - areas in which IDF soldiers were authorized to open fire at anyone who entered them. "Their use of women, children, infants and innocent farmers increased," Fogel explains. "We understood that in order to reduce the margin of error, we had to create areas in which anyone who entered was considered a terrorist."
(An occupation force always encounters this, as the Resistance it creates is comprised of the people living in the region it is attacking. This is yet another illegal policy on the part of Israel's military.)
And was marked for death?
The Military Advocate General’s Office denies the existence of any such order.
"I have my truth."
Was there machine gun fire into populated areas?
"Not in the first six weeks. Use of that was permitted gradually, including at suspicious places, and that definitely loosened the trigger finger."
Fogel relates that soldiers also fired flechette antipersonnel shells into populated areas. These shells, usually fired from tanks, contain thousands of metal darts which disperse over a wide area; they are intended to kill and maim. "It came and went," Fogel says about the use of flechettes. "We banned it when we understood that it had a huge deterrent effect and that it also caused casualties among noncombatants. At first we used it a great deal, particularly in areas that we did not want to evacuate with D9 bulldozers."
(This was no different than Israel's illegal use of cluster bombs against residential areas of Lebanon only last summer.)
Were they fired even into clearly populated areas?
"If not clearly, then yes, into populated places. There are houses in an orchard and we fired into it."
How was it done from the legal standpoint? Is firing flechettes a matter of black-and-white?
"When you want to use something, you have no problem finding the justification, especially when we hit those we wanted to hit when we used them at the start of the events. If at the beginning we could justify it operationally, then even if there were personnel from the Advocate General’s Office or from the prosecution, it was easy to bend them in the face of the results…
"The other side exploited our response to justify its operations, and from that moment there was a snowball effect. We reached a situation in which no one died a natural death in the Gaza Strip - they were all killed by us. From the moment the other side leveraged this, we were all dragged into the process. That is the reason I argued that they [Hamas] would win the elections."
Did you discern legitimization for attacking Palestinian civilians directly?
"I think I can say that from the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003 we look at the population differently. There was a deterioration in the restrictions we imposed on ourselves in regard to striking at the population, and not necessarily with weapons. In this period we started to treat the population homogeneously. There was an atmosphere that it was permissible to make things hard for the population, to hound them."
Were the measures that are being taken and considered today - restricting fuel and cutting off the power supply - also considered then?
Do you think that such measures prevent attacks on Israel?
"They prevent nothing; on the contrary."'
He also talks about the "disengagement", pointing out that Israel remains "custodian" of Gaza and "continue[s] to be responsible for their fate."