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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - GAZA CITY — The Israeli soldier looks directly into the camera, then turns around and sets a pile of food supplies on fire.
“We turn on the light against this dark place and burn it until there is no trace of this whole place,” he says as another soldier fuels the flame.
The soldiers say they are in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in Gaza City, deep in the besieged enclave. They are filming themselves burning food in a place where the humanitarian situation is now so bad that international organizations are warning people are at risk of dying of starvation.
This video is only one of several circulating online and reviewed by CNN that show Israeli soldiers in Gaza behaving in offensive and disrespectful ways toward the civilian population. Other videos show soldiers ransacking private homes, destroying civilian property and using racist and hateful language.
Asked by CNN about the videos, the Israel Defense Forces did not dispute their veracity, location or that IDF soldiers were involved. It condemned the soldiers’ behavior, which it said does not align with its rules, adding that the perpetrators will be punished.
“The IDF has taken action and will continue acting to identify misconduct and behavior that does not align with the expected morals and values of IDF soldiers,” it said in a statement sent to CNN.
The videos, many of them posted on social media apparently by the soldiers themselves, are adding to the international outcry over the IDF’s conduct as the military offensive against Hamas continues in Gaza. Israel launched the war following the Hamas terrorist attack on Israeli soil on October 7, when more than 1,200 people were killed and around 240 taken hostage.
Since the start of the war, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza, 18,412 have been killed in Israeli attacks in the enclave. While CNN cannot independently verify that number, the IDF has said it has struck more than 22,000 targets in Gaza in the first six weeks of the war.
While the IDF says it is not targeting civilians in Gaza, the videos show some of its soldiers paying little respect to the lives of ordinary Gazans.
In one video, a soldier is seen going through a woman’s wardrobe, including her underwear, making derogatory, sexist remarks about Arab women.
Another clip shows an IDF soldier vandalizing a shop in what he says is Jabalya, a city in northern Gaza.
One by one, he takes store’s items, smashing them against the floor and the counter. At one point, he takes two dolls from the shelf and shatters their heads.
In other videos, smiling soldiers are seen destroying civilian cars with a military vehicle, riding children’s bicycles through the rubble of a destroyed building, and making fun of the lack of water supply in a private home.
A photo shared online shows a soldier standing next to a Hebrew sign spraypainted on a wall in Gaza that says: “Instead of erasing graffiti, let us erase Gaza.”
Dror Sadot, from the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, said the videos are just one symptom of a much bigger issue.
“It’s more than just disrespect and disregard, it’s dehumanization,” she told CNN. “And I think it’s not surprising when you hear what politicians and top officials are saying about Palestinians in Gaza, without differentiating between Hamas and the civilians. It sinks down,” she added.
Sadot said she believed the IDF policy towards Gaza is one of “revenge” for the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7.
The shock of the scale and brutality of the attack reverberated through Israel, a relatively small country with a population of less than 10 million. Many Israelis know someone who was killed, lost a relative or friend or was affected in some other way.
“When it’s been so blatant that Israel is doing much of a revenge act over Gaza, it’s not a surprise that the soldiers are also coming for revenge. Humiliating people and property, taking those videos,” she said.
Israeli society is still overwhelmingly supportive of the IDF and its operation in Gaza, despite the rising number of Israeli casualties, the international opposition, the high civilian death toll and, most recently, videos such as these.
Retired IDF General Israel Ziv told CNN he had seen the videos and was so disturbed by them that he reached out to IDF commanders in charge of the soldiers involved.
“I was (told) that the brigade commander will punish the ones who did that once they stop fighting,” he told CNN.
In its statement to CNN, the IDF said that “disciplinary measures will be taken regarding the soldiers involved.”
Asked for details about the measures, the IDF did not respond to CNN’s questions.
On Thursday, commenting on separate videos that showed Israeli soldiers singing Jewish prayers into the loudspeakers of a mosque in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, the IDF said it had removed those involved from operational activity and they would be “disciplined accordingly.” — CNN
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