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Oded Na'aman: "It's Mostly Punishment"" Testimonies by Veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces From Gaza and the Occupied

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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.

Are you saying this because you checked afterward?

Because we carried out the bodies. There were three people in that car. Nothing happened to the person in the back. He got out, looked around like this, put his hands in the air. But the two bodies in the front were hacked to pieces...

Afterward, I counted how many bullets I had left -- I'd shot ten bullets. The whole thing was terrifying -- more and more and more noise. It all took about a second and a half. And then they took out the bodies, carried the bodies. We went to a debriefing. I'll never forget when they brought the bodies out at the base.  We were standing two meters away in a semicircle, the bodies were covered in flies, and we had the debriefing. It was, "Great job, a success. Someone shot the wrong car, and we'll talk about the rest back on the base." I was in total shock from all the bullets, from the crazy noise. We saw it on the video, it was all documented on video for the debriefing. I saw all the things that I told you, the people running, the minute of gunfire, I don't know if it's twenty seconds or a minute, but it was hundreds of bullets and it was clear that the people had been killed, but the gunfire went on and the soldiers were running from the armored truck. What I saw was a bunch of bloodthirsty guys firing an insane amount of bullets, and at the wrong car, too. The video was just awful, and then the unit commander got up. I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot from him.

What do you mean?

That he'll be a regional commanding officer or the chief of staff one day. He said, "The operation wasn't carried out perfectly, but the mission was accomplished, and we got calls from the chief of staff, the defense minister, the prime minister" -- everyone was happy, it's good for the unit, and the operation was like, you know, just: "Great job." The debriefing was just a cover-up.

Meaning?

Meaning no one stopped to say, "Three innocent people died." Maybe with the driver there was no other way, but who were the others?

Who were they, in fact?

At that time I had a friend training with the Shin Bet, he told me about the jokes going around that the terrorist was a nobody. He'd probably taken part in some shooting and the other two had nothing to do with anything. What shocked me was that the day after the operation, the newspapers said that "a secret unit killed four terrorists," and there was a whole story on each one, where he came from, who he'd been involved with, the operations he'd done. But I know that on the Shin Bet base they're joking about how we killed a nobody and the other two weren't even connected, and at the debriefing itself  they didn't even mention it.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews (more...)
 

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