Pictures of Gaza City’s Shujaiyeh neighborhood before and after the past month’s battles were distributed as a “victory memento,” as one officer termed it, to soldiers of a brigade that fought there.
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The Israel Defense Forces’ top brass didn’t know about it, and responded to a question on the subject with embarrassment and disapproval.
The pictures, mainly aerial photos plus a few ground-level ones, were originally prepared as part of an operational inquiry into the fighting in Shujaiyeh on the night of July 20-21 and thereafter. They show rows of houses on the outer edges of the neighborhood both before the Golani Brigade’s entry and after its soldiers came under heavy fire, which resulted in their calling in massive artillery and air strikes so they could extricate themselves and evacuate their wounded.
Many houses were destroyed in these strikes, and others were destroyed by bombs that Hamas had planted to detonate whenever soldiers hunting tunnel entrances came into range.
At a later stage of the fighting, Brigade 828 was also deployed in Shujaiyeh. This is an infantry brigade comprised of both regular troops and reservists, which is commanded by Col. Mordechai Kahane, a nephew of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. Toward the end of its deployment, the “before” and “after” pictures were disseminated to all Brigade 828 soldiers.
One soldier said he was disturbed by this “victory album.” He stressed that he supported the operation in Gaza, including the destruction of houses in Shujaiyeh that endangered the troops, and would willingly participate in similar operations. Nevertheless, he said, distributing such pictures as a souvenir is contrary to the IDF’s ethos and does no honor to the brigade and its officers.
Official army sources confirmed the facts of this report, but declined to provide copies of the pictures for publication. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the matter is being investigated.