Videos by Israeli soldiers provide ‘unsanctioned’ window into Gaza war: NY Times analysis
LONDON: From the onset of the offensive in Gaza, Israeli soldiers have been sharing videos from the embattled Palestinian enclave on social media, offering what the New York Times described as a “rare, unsanctioned look at operations on the ground.”
The American newspaper assessed and verified hundreds of social media videos that capture Israeli soldiers vandalizing civilian structures, using derogatory language toward Palestinians, and calling for the establishment of Israeli settlements in Gaza.
At least 50 of these videos were attributed to Israel’s military combat engineering units, which flaunted operations targeting civilian buildings with explosives, bulldozers and excavators. In late January, a far-right conference in Israel called for new Jewish settlements to be built in the Gaza Strip despite international pressure on Israel to respect Palestinian statehood.
Since Oct. 7, after Hamas carried out a surprise attack in southern Israel, the Israeli military launched a bombing campaign in the besieged strip, killing over 27,700 and flattening swathes of urban and agricultural landscape.
In the case South Africa brought to the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of “genocide,” one of the social media videos shared by Israeli soldiers was screened while five others were cited.
One of the TikTok videos analyzed by The Times shows an Israeli soldier giving a thumbs up to the camera as he demolishes a home in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza. The soldier shared the video on his personal account with the caption: “I stopped counting how many neighborhoods I’ve erased.”
By sharing such content on social websites, Israeli soldiers are believed to have violated the regulations of the Israel Defense Forces, which prohibit social media posting by its personnel so as not to “affect the image of the IDF and its perceptions in the eyes of the public.”
The Israeli army condemned in a press statement the videos featured in The Times’ article.
However, this did not stop similar videos from emerging and reaching thousands of viewers online, sparking anger and fueling criticism of the Israeli military.
According to The Times, Nova Beach, where the Israeli army established bases along the northern coast of Gaza, is “the backdrop for many of the social media videos.” This area was home to many Palestinians before the ongoing onslaught.
One wrecked Palestinian home was used in a video posted in November, showing an Israeli soldier making himself at home as a parody version of the Israeli song “This Was My Home” plays. He gestures at a scene of rubble outside the house’s window.
Describing the act as “heartbreaking” and “inhumane,” Basel Al-Sourani, an international human rights lawyer with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, told The Times this “demonstrates that the Israelis want you basically out of your home, the Gaza Strip.”
In another viral video by the same soldier, who is also a DJ, a remix called “Two, Three, Launch” plays while a group of soldiers dance on camera. When the word “launch” is heard, the video cuts to the scene of a building being blown up.
These clips, The Times said, were removed from TikTok shortly after the newspaper asked the platform about them. TikTok explained that the videos in question violated its guidelines and policies around hate speech.
In one of the combat engineers’ videos, an Israeli army personnel dedicates the bulldozing of a building in Khan Younis to Eyal Golan, an Israeli singer championing the complete destruction of Gaza. Citing this video during the ICJ hearing in the Hague, South Africa believed it was evidence of “genocidal speech by soldiers.”
Israel has been found to have carried out at least 33 controlled demolitions in Gaza, razing hundreds of buildings — including schools, residential blocs and mosques, according to a New York Times analysis of Israeli military footage, social media videos and satellite imagery.
A spokesperson for the Israeli military claimed the IDF was “locating and destroying terror infrastructures embedded, among other things, inside buildings” in civilian areas.” He told The Times that sometimes entire neighborhoods act as “combat complexes” for Hamas fighters.