Gaza City // Photo: Anadolu Agency

Yes, the army is definitely looting in Gaza

The claim of looting is not ‘anecdotal’, since if it were, the chief-of-staff would not talk about it. Also because alongside the testimonies that flow directly, there are dozens of videos and photos uploaded by soldiers documenting the looting of food, jewellery, clothes, kitchen utensils, cosmetics, carpets and more.

The Palestine Project
3 min readMay 12, 2024

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By Yagil Levy • Translated by Sol Salbe

In an article in Haaretz, an anonymous reservist disputes my contention in this newspaper that army soldiers loot Gazans’ property on a large scale, claiming that it is based on a few anecdotes. I find it necessary to respond with concern that the combat soldier’s article reflects part of the moral blindness that has taken hold of combat soldiers on duty.

According to him, the writer fought in Beit Hanoun. Perhaps it was not his unit, but it was in the same town in which Battalion 2908 fought. A company commander of a supporting unit to this Battalion, Yair Ben David, boasted to his soldiers: “Battalion 2908 entered Beit Hanoun and did what Shimon and Levi did in Shechem,” meaning that the battalion took cruel revenge as Shimon and Levi did [murdered all the adult males in response to the rape of their sister]. This text was included in the statement of claim against Israel, which was submitted to the International Court of Justice in The Hague on charges of genocide. So, let’s assume for a moment that the writer didn’t see any of this, and in his specific sector there was no one to take revenge on and no one to loot, because by the time the troops entered, the houses had already been destroyed by air and land attacks at a level of “biblical” destruction as he waxes lyrical about it. There is still validity to the claim of large-scale looting, and it is not based on anecdotes.

The claim of looting is not anecdotal, since if it were, the chief-of-staff would not talk about it, as the writer mentions, and the headquarters of the chief education officer would not have published a document entitled “Key points for a commander’s address on looting.” After all, senior IDF officials do not invent injustices in order to speak out against them, and they are well aware that by speaking out against looting, they are in fact confirming its existence at alarming levels. The looting is not anecdotal because alongside the testimonies that flow directly, there are dozens of videos and photos uploaded by soldiers documenting the looting of food, jewellery, clothes, kitchen utensils, cosmetics, carpets and more. Oren Ziv recently documented this phenomenon for the Local Call website: “There may have been sporadic phenomena of taking equipment or souvenirs,” the writer admits, but what to do — when a woman uploads a picture of makeup products online because her partner “returned with gifts from Gaza” — this is looting, even if it may be sporadic.

I am not arguing that this is a deliberate or an organised phenomenon. It arises “from below,” from the militia-style pattern that has taken over some of the military units fighting in Gaza without their commanders acting to uproot it. The chief-of-staff did speak against it, but belatedly, and he merely spoke and did not enforce. The phenomenon continues, since the chief of staff [only] has partial control over the forces. I repeat my conclusion: “The existence [of looting] is one of the mainstays of the fighting spirit, and therefore the General Staff hesitates to uproot it.” I believe that this reality contradicts the soldier-contributor assessments, but it will not disappear.

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