Beyond Images Challenging Myths and Presenting Facts About Israel
Reducing Palestinian suffering:
Israeli soldiers pay the ultimate price

London - published on 16 May 2004
Beyond Images Ref: 92

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The six Israeli soldiers killed on 12 May 2004 in an operation in Gaza against weapons factories exposed themselves to high risk in order to reduce the chances of harming Palestinian civilians. This is one illustration of how Israeli forces prioritise Palestinian humanitarian needs when Israel’s terrorist adversaries display no such concerns.

Israeli operation against a Gaza City weapons workshop

Since March 2004 Israeli forces have stepped up their operations to locate and destroy weapons factories in the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday 12 May 2004 soldiers from an Israeli infrantry brigade destroyed a weapons workshop in the Gaza City suburb of Zeitoun, a well-known Islamic Jihad stronghold. The workshop was reportedly used to make Kassam rockets and other arms. The destruction was accomplished without Palestinian casualties, despite the Israeli soldiers coming under sustained attack from firebombs and grenades.

As the Israeli soldiers were leaving Zeitoun in their Armoured Personnel Carrier, a massive bomb exploded underneath the vehicle, killing the six soldiers inside, and, horrifically, scattering body parts over a wide area. Palestinian TV later showed Palestinians brandishing these body parts, and spokesmen refused to hand them over to Israel for burial, without “concessions” from Israel. (Israel refused to negotiate).

Why does Israel choose to send in ground forces in this way?

Speaking to reporters following the bombing, Israel’s senior military commander in the region, Dan Harel, offered this perspective on the operation (as reported in Hamodia, 14 May 2004):-

“Harel explained that these weapons workshops are not blown up from the air by [Israeli] missile strikes because very often they are located in buildings occupied by other families [our italics]. For that reason soldiers are sent into the buildings and are often instructed to destroy just the tools and machinery used in manufacturing and to minimise damage to the structures themselves….”

Israel certainly has the ability to destroy weapons workshops from a distance by means of precision-guided missile strikes. But Harel indicates that it is unwilling to do so, for fear of harming Palestinian residents. Instead, it sends its troops into high risk areas. On May 12, six Israeli conscripts paid the ultimate price for the policy, leaving family, friends, and comrades devastated.


This incident is one of many illustrations of how Israel seeks to reduce Palestinian suffering out of humanitarian considerations, and has itself suffered as a result. Virtually no-one has reported Harel’s comments.

Related Beyond Images resources

Briefing 13 – how an Israeli was lynched hours after a curfew on a Palestinian town was lifted by Israel in order to improve the daily life of its Arab residents

Briefing 93 – how Israeli soldiers in Jenin carefully protected Palestinian homes in the midst of an extremely dangerous operation against heavily armed terrorists.