Israeli Officer: Shelling Gaza Clinic Used by Hamas Raised Soldiers’ Morale

The armored corps destroyed the clinic because Hamas operated there and in order to avenge the killing of an officer, deputy brigade commander says.

Reuters

An Israel Defense Forces officer who fired shells at a clinic in Gaza during last summer’s war said in a radio interview that the action had served to “raised morale” of the battalion. Maj. (res.) Amihai Harach told Galei Yisrael radio on Tuesday that the structure had to be destroyed because a Hamas position was operating from it, but that the action was also an act of revenge for the killing of one of the battalion’s officers. Harach, who is the reserve deputy brigade commander in an armored corps battalion, also said that revenge firing was not unusual during Operation Protective Edge.

The Israel Defense Forces Military Advocate General’s office last week announced the launch of a military police investigation of the incident, on suspicion of criminal conduct in the targeting of the clinic, which took place one day after Armored Corps officer Dima Levitas was killed. The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Neria Yeshurun, told the IDF Ground Forces publication Bayabasha that he was sorry that he and his company could not be at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery for Levitas’ funeral, “and therefore we decided to fire a volley of shells toward the point from which he lost his life.”

Harach told Galei Yisrael radio “this was an operational action — not an act by some bully who comes to the neighborhood and tries to make order on the backs of the residents. That was not the situation at all.” What had to be done, he continued, was “to take down this clinic because there was a Hamas position thereWhat’s more, the clinic was incriminated, they fired from there and they killed a company commander in the battalion.”

Asked whether the incident was unusual, Harach answered: “The only unusual thing he [Yeshurun] did was that he put the incident on top of the eulogy to Dima, the company commander who was killed. That was certainly to raise [morale]. And I say to you on the level of facts – that raised morale and encouraged the soldiers to continue the mission.”

Another unusual element, Harach said, was that soldiers documented the shelling of the clinic “so we could distribute it to the whole battalion.”

A recent report by the NGO Breaking the Silence contains testimony by an Armored Corps soldier from the same brigade about firing in revenge. According to the soldier, his company commander ordered him to fire shells at Palestinian homes in memory of a comrade from the company who had been killed. “To me it seemed not right at all, very problematicthey fired like they do at funerals, just with a shell at houses. It wasn’t in the air. The tank commander said ‘pick a house that’s farthest away, so that it hurts them as much as possible.’ A sort of revenge,” the soldier said.