Veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces Speak Out on Atrocities From Gaza and the Occupied Territories
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4. Elimination Operation
Unit: Special Forces
Location: Gaza Strip
There was a period at the beginning of the Intifada where they assassinated people using helicopter missiles.
This was at the beginning of the Second Intifada?
Yes. But it was a huge mess because there were mistakes and other people were killed, so they told us we were now going to be doing a ground elimination operation.
Is that the terminology they used? “Ground elimination operation”?
I don’t remember. But we knew it was going to be the first one of the Intifada. That was very important for the commanders and we started to train for it. The plan was to catch a terrorist on his way to Rafah, trap him in the middle of the road, and eliminate him.
Not to arrest him?
No, direct elimination. Targeted. But that operation was canceled, and then a few days later they told us that we’re going on an arrest operation. I remember the disappointment. We were going to arrest the guy instead of doing something groundbreaking, changing the terms. So the operation was planned...
Anyway, we’re waiting inside the APC [armored personnel carrier], there are Shin Bet agents with us, and we can hear the updates from intelligence. It was amazing, like, “He’s sitting in his house drinking coffee, he’s going downstairs, saying hi to the neighbor” -- stuff like that. “He’s going back up, coming down again, saying this and that, opening the trunk now, picking up a friend” -- really detailed stuff. He didn’t drive, someone else drove, and they told us his weapon was in the trunk. So we knew he didn’t have the weapon with him in the car, which would make the arrest easier. At least it relieved my stress, because I knew that if he ran to get the weapon, they’d shoot at him.
Where did the Shin Bet agent sit?
With me. In the APC. We were in contact with command and they told us he’d arrive in another five minutes, four minutes, one minute. And then there was a change in the orders, apparently from the brigade commander: elimination operation. A minute ahead of time. They hadn’t prepared us for that. A minute to go and it’s an elimination operation.
Why do you say “apparently from the brigade commander”?
I think it was the brigade commander. Looking back, the whole thing seems like a political ploy by the commander, trying to get bonus points for doing the first elimination operation, and the brigade commander trying, too. . . everyone wanted it, everyone was hot for it. The car arrives, and it’s not according to plan: their car stops here, and there’s another car in front of it, here. From what I remember, we had to shoot, he was three meters away. We had to shoot. After they stopped the cars, I fired through the scope and the gunfire made an insane amount of noise, just crazy. And then the car, the moment we started shooting, started speeding in this direction.
The car in front?
No, the terrorist’s car -- apparently when they shot the driver his leg was stuck on the gas, and they started flying. The gunfire increased, and the commander next to me is yelling “Stop, stop, hold your fire,” but they don’t stop shooting. Our guys get out and start running, away from the jeep and the armored truck, shoot a few rounds, and then go back. Insane bullets flying around for a few minutes. “Stop, stop, hold your fire,” and then they stop. They fired dozens if not hundreds of bullets into the car in front.