IDF chief in missive to soldiers: ‘Unlike our enemy, we maintain our humanity’

Halevi tells his troops war in Gaza is ‘just’ – not revenge nor genocide; says army’s probe into Oct. 7 failures will be steered by ‘truth, transparency, solidarity’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi gives a statement to the media at an army base in southern Israel, December 26, 2023. (Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi gives a statement to the media at an army base in southern Israel, December 26, 2023. (Flash90)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi sent a missive to troops on Tuesday, telling them that the army is “not on a killing spree,” acting out of revenge nor carrying out genocide in the Gaza Strip, with the war against Hamas in its fifth month.

“We still have a long way to go,” Halevi wrote, adding that Israel was fighting “a long and just war. Every move is very important, every local achievement is part of realizing the goals of the war. Do it with determination and professionalism.”

War erupted in Gaza with Hamas’s October 7 attack, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, amid horrific acts of brutality.

Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel launched a wide-scale air and ground campaign in Gaza aimed at destroying the terror group’s military and governance capabilities and returning the hostages, 130 of whom remain in captivity.

“We act like human beings and, unlike our enemy, maintain our humanity. We must be careful not to use force where it is not required, to distinguish between a terrorist and those who are not, not to take anything that is not ours — a souvenir or weapons — and not to film revenge videos,” Halevi said.

The IDF chief’s comments came weeks after The New York Times published an article titled “What Israeli Soldiers’ Videos Reveal: Cheering Destruction and Mocking Gazans,” which showed photos and videos of Israeli soldiers making derogatory comments about Palestinians, vandalizing civilian property and smiling for the cameras while driving bulldozers and using explosives.

The report cited an IDF statement condemning the soldiers’ posts as “deplorable.”

Israeli female soldiers pose for a photo on the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, February 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

“We are not on a killing spree, revenge, or genocide. We have come to win and defeat a cruel enemy, who deserves a bitter loss,” Halevi wrote in his Tuesday missive, also alluding to the accusations of genocide and apartheid that Israel is facing at the world’s top court.

Commenting on the IDF’s investigation into its failures in the lead-up to Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, which is set to begin the next few days, Halevi said, “We will carry out the investigations with five central values: truth, factualness, transparency, responsibility, and solidarity.”

The Times of Israel has learned that Halevi decided on Monday not to wait until after fighting in Gaza ends to look into what went wrong before the shock Hamas assault.

The probes are aimed at drawing operational conclusions for the military, and will not look into the policies of the political leadership, avoiding a fight with government leaders who have insisted that investigations wait until after the end of Israel’s war against Hamas.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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