Israeli Pilot Describes 'Good Strike' That Killed 15 Gazans in 2002

A crewman involved in the assassination of Hamas military leader Salah Shehadeh recently spoke with students about the controversial incident.

The airmen who bombed the home of a Hamas military leader in 2002 did not know or did not want to know the identity of their target before the strike, according to T., one of the crewmen directly involved, who spoke recently with students at a secular yeshiva in Tel Aviv.

The July 22 bombing of the home of Salah Shehadeh, who had headed Hamas’ military wing, in the densely populated Daraj neighborhood of Gaza City, killed a total of 15 people, including Shehadeh and his assistant. The other victims included eight children ‏(ranging in age from less than a year to 14 years old‏) and three women.

jet - Eliahu Hershkovitz - October 6, 2010
Eliahu Hershkovitz

Haaretz acquired a recording of the discussion held with T. at the BINA Center in Tel Aviv, and for the first time is reporting testimony from one of the direct perpetrators of the assassination.

On December 19, 2010, T. participated in a discussion titled “The Limits of Obedience,” part of a series called “The Military in a Democratic State,” held jointly by the yeshiva and the IDF Staff and Command School.

After preparing and training for a number of days, T. said, “They authorized the takeoff... We took off from the Hatzor airbase. It takes two minutes from Hatzor to Gaza ... flight time. Two minutes after takeoff we are told ‘go and wait over the sea.’

“That means west, a great deal out, in the dark, so that there is no noise,” T. continued. “This [kind of] person can smell planes, can hear them coming and escape... So we wait over the sea for 50 minutes. Then they tell us: ‘approval for strike.’ I say ‘fantastic.’

“You must have seen the movies ... that’s what it looks like. We move east, then west, strike, the house goes down, collapses ... We don’t see anything around ... at that height you cannot see very much. I have a television screen when I look at the target. I strike using night vision, land and wait for the base commander...

“[He] tells me that it was Salah Shehadeh, and I say ‘good,’” T. said. “I have no idea who or what he’s talking about. We carried out a good strike, alpha − that’s what it’s called in air force talk − and that’s it. [After that] we went to sleep.

“The next day, actually the same day, they tell us that the strike killed Salah Shehadeh, his wife, his daughter, his son and others... The commander of the pilots called us all in for a talk about ethics, the first one I’d ever heard about...”

During the discussion in Tel Aviv, T. asked the teenagers, who are themselves, preparing for their military service, the following question: “Had I known that 14 other people were with him ... what should I have done?”