B’Tselem, Revenge and where it leads

Palestinians react near the scene of an Israeli missile strike in Gaza. This photo was distributed via Wikimedia and traces back through the Iranian Fars news agency, which did not name the photographer. Israeli forces are known to sometimes kill journalists whom they do not control, so you might expect the photographer to want to remain anonymous.

Revenge policy in motion

by B’Tseslem

October 10, 2023

On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinian militants entered Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of civilians, soldiers and police officers, burning down homes and kidnapping more than 100 people. The full extent of these horrifying crimes is slowly coming to light.

The same evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel is at war with Gaza and will “forcefully avenge.“ He promised to reduce Hamas locations to rubble and told Gazans: “Get out now. We will act everywhere and with full force.” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered all the crossings between Israel and Gaza closed and announced there would be “no electricity, no food, no fuel – everything shut down. We are fighting against human animals and are acting accordingly.” This morning, the IDF Spokesperson said “the emphasis is on damage rather than on precision.”

A criminal policy of revenge is underway. Since Saturday, Israel has dropped hundreds of tons of bombs on Gaza. Netanyahu’s call for residents to leave is a farce with no bearing on reality. The Gaza Strip is closed off on all sides and the residents have no way out. There are no shelters and no way to seek cover from airstrikes. Among the people killed, some of them still trapped under debris, are entire families wiped out in a single bombardment – including at least 140 minors and 105 women. The death toll is rising by the minute.

The order to prefer damage over precision has also been carried out. Hundreds of homes already lie in ruins, including residential towers reduced to rubble and houses that collapsed on top of the inhabitants. More than 180,000 people have been internally displaced. Roads and public buildings, including schools and medical clinics, have been damaged by airstrikes. Hospitals are functioning only partially – some were damaged by bombing, and all are severely lacking medical equipment and fuel for electric generators.

The decision to imprison Gaza even more tightly than usual has also been implemented. The crossings are closed and goods cannot be brought in. Israel has disconnected Gaza from the power grid and the population now depends on the small local power plant, which will only hold out for several days until the diesel fuel runs out. Water is also in short supply: almost all the water extracted in Gaza requires desalination or purification to drink, and these rely on electricity. Israel has also cut back on the water it sells to Gaza, and part of the water network has been damaged by bombing.

There is no justification for these actions, which constitute war crimes openly ordered by top Israeli officials. Even in the face of horror and terror – intentionally harming civilians, their property and civilian infrastructure is always prohibited. One crime does not justify another, nor does one kind of injustice justify another. Acts of revenge are prohibited by basic moral principles and by the provisions of international law that Israel is obliged to uphold.

Contrary to what Israeli ministers are implying, this policy is not new, but has been implemented towards Gaza for many years. The death, destruction, pain and horror it has wrought have led to nothing but more horror. It is time to demand to a different reality – a new future for all those who live here.


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