IDFs conduct, ethics under scrutiny following soldiers social media posts


(JERUSALUM) — Six months into the Israel-Hamas conflict, the conduct and ethics of some of the Israel Defense Forces members have increasingly come under the microscope.

Incidents ranging from pranks to potentially criminal acts are being exposed to the world, often by videos soldiers themselves have posted online, according to critics and Israeli officials.

In many pictures and videos that have circulated since the conflict began, and which were reposted by pro-Palestinian activists to millions of followers, IDF soldiers are seen blowing up buildings in Gaza while in combat, waving women’s underwear like flags and rifling through the possessions of Gazans with gleeful expressions.

Younis Tirawi, a Palestinian activist, says he’s seen thousands of videos of IDF soldiers reportedly behaving improperly. “You can see all the soldiers liking their posts,” Tirawi told ABC News. “

The images and videos have been condemned by activists, and military ethics experts say some of the incidents captured on video and photos show serious violations. Israeli soldiers are prohibited from bringing phones and filming military activities in Gaza.

“The pictures [and] the videos I saw were taken by the soldiers. So it’s not fabricated and they are wrong. Their activities there are wrong,” said Asa Kasher, a professor at Tel Aviv University and the lead author of the IDF’s code of ethics.

Oren Ziv, an Israeli journalist who was the first to report on the videos inside Israel, told ABC News the posts were emblematic of a worrying trend in Israeli society and its military.

“The loss of any moral compass and seeing the Palestinians as human beings in general…it is a long process for dozens of years,” he said.

“Of course, after Oct. 7, I think it’s very hard to the general Israeli public and for sure the soldiers on the front to see them as human beings and also to make the differentiation between Hamas and the people who committed the massacre on Oct. 7, and then civilians who live in Gaza,” Ziv added.

U.S. officials expressed outrage after seven World Central Kitchen aid workers were killed on April 2 by Israeli air strikes.

“This week’s horrific attack on the World Central Kitchen was not the first such incident. It must be the last,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said following the attack.

Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the IDF, told ABC News that he was aware of the videos posted by soldiers but maintained the army is committed to adhering to its code of ethics.

“This is the army of the people. And we follow the core, the values and the international law. Those that made the video, [and] not just a video about bragging…will be [met] with a punishment, a severe punishment,” he said.

A group of Israeli soldiers is seen kneeling in what was a Gaza neighborhood before setting off explosives in a video filmed by an IDF soldier that was verified by ABC News.

The soldier said he was destroying 21 homes to commemorate the death of 21 Israeli soldiers in a Hamas ambush in January.

When asked about the video, the IDF said in a statement that it “examines events of this kind as well as reports of videos uploaded to social networks and handles them with command and disciplinary measures.”

Acts of vengeance and collective punishment are prohibited under international law, according to Professor Kasher.

Kasher told ABC News that he was disturbed by other alleged incidents by IDF members, including one in the West Bank where a soldier was filmed reciting a Jewish prayer through the speakers of a mosque that the soldiers raided.

The IDF said it removed the soldiers from duty who were seen in that video.

In another video that went viral, IDF reservist Leroi Taljaar was seen jokingly saying “everything is fine” while on duty in Gaza before IDF soldiers detonated an explosive.

Taljaar, a South African citizen, told ABC News that the video was “a joke.”

“And, I definitely wouldn’t put a video up of where I knew that there was innocent civilians being killed,” he said. “Me and my friends went through a very, very difficult time while we were there. And our way of getting over that difficulty was making dark comedy. Maybe it wasn’t at the right time, at the right place.”

Taljaar said that the IDF has not spoken to him about the incident; however, South Africa has now said it would prosecute dual-national soldiers like him if they tried to return to the country.

Taljaar said he wasn’t concerned about the repercussions.

“Let’s first sort out the problems inside our country before we look to problems of other countries,” he said. ” [The South African government is] looking for problems in places where they can’t really do anything anyway.”

The incidents aren’t limited to the rank-and-file members of the IDF.

ABC News verified a video showing a drone missile on an empty Gazan college building. The strike was ordered by a general who wasn’t authorized to do so, according to officials.

Video of the strike on the Palestinian Institution of Higher Learning was posted by a soldier — which is against IDF policy.

Israeli officials allege the building was used by Hamas as a weapons depo and said that the general who ordered the unauthorized strike was reprimanded.

Although tensions are high because of the violence of the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack, which was also filmed and shared on social media, Israeli forces must adhere to their code of conduct, Amos Yadlin, former head of intelligence for the IDF told ABC News.

“It’s against the rules of engagement and against the ethics of the IDF, and the IDF commanders have a duty to make it not happen and to make the discipline,” he said.

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