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Have the IDF become addicted to explosions? Investigation reveals extent of demolitions carried out across Gaza

A recent investigation by the investigative group Bellingcat – ‘”We’ve Become Addicted to Explosions” The IDF Unit Responsible for Demolishing Homes Across Gaza’ – has uncovered detailed accounts of widespread and systematic demolitions of housing carried out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza, following the October 7 Hamas attack that claimed over 1,100 lives.

The Bellingcat investigation sheds light on the systematic destruction of civilian housing and infrastructure in Gaza, which has been labeled “domicide” by Professor Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. Professor Rajagopal emphasized the need for the IDF to provide evidence and justification for each demolition to ensure that actions are proportionate and necessary under international law.

The IDF’s ground offensive, which began shortly thereafter, has resulted in more than 33,000 deaths in Gaza, as reported by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued interim measures to prevent further violence, citing concerns of potential genocide.

Using social media posts from IDF soldiers, Bellingcat tracked the activities of the 8219 Commando, a combat engineering battalion, revealing their extensive involvement in demolitions across Gaza. The investigation geolocated and verified numerous instances of destruction, including residential buildings, mosques, and other structures, providing a detailed timeline and geographical mapping of these events.

Key findings include:

  • November 13-14: Demolition of a two-story building near the Mediterranean Sea.
  • November 20-23: Multiple residential tower blocks near Al Quds Hospital in Tel al-Hawa, Gaza City, were destroyed, impacting a significant number of homes.
  • December 7-10: Demolition of another building.
  • December 10-15: Destruction of Al-Islah Mosque and adjacent buildings, with claims that religious structures were used for military purposes.
  • December 26 – January 3: Extensive demolitions in Khuza’a and Khirbat Ikhza’a, areas close to the Israeli border, purportedly to create a “buffer zone.”

The investigation highlighted statements from soldiers that suggested some demolitions were motivated by revenge for the October 7 attack. Yonatan Segal, a member of 8219, acknowledged that revenge played a role, describing it as a means to “teach a lesson.”

A striking detail from the investigation is a statement made by a captain in 8219 Commando: “We’ve become addicted to explosions.” This comment underscores the frequency and intensity of the demolitions carried out by the unit.

Professor Rajagopal noted that the scale of destruction could support claims of rendering Gaza uninhabitable, potentially amounting to a crime against humanity. He also criticized the IDF’s buffer zone strategy as a “land-grab,” taking a significant portion of Gaza’s territory.

Mairav Zonszein, a Senior Analyst at the International Crisis Group, stated that the current conflict’s demolitions are unprecedented in scope, suggesting motives ranging from revenge to punitive deradicalization efforts. She emphasized the IDF’s deterrence policy, which involves disproportionate responses to attacks, aiming to dismantle Hamas and significantly alter Gaza’s urban landscape.

The IDF responded to inquiries by asserting that their operations target terror infrastructures within civilian areas, aiming to enhance security for Israeli citizens. They maintained that their actions comply with international law and that any exceptional incidents will be examined by the General Staff’s Fact-Finding and Assessment Mechanism.

The investigation raises critical questions about the proportionality and legality of the IDF’s operations in Gaza, highlighting the need for transparency and accountability in military actions affecting civilian populations.

As Dr. Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), said of the investigation: “In light of Bellingcat’s investigation, it is imperative to address the alarming scale of destruction in Gaza. The reported demolitions by the IDF raise serious concerns about adherence to international humanitarian law and the proportionality of military actions.”

“The phrase ‘we’ve become addicted to explosions’ is particularly troubling, suggesting a normalisation of extreme measures that disproportionately affect civilians. The international community must demand greater accountability and transparency to ensure that such actions do not go unchecked.”