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Israel's 'Dahiya Doctrine': State Terrorism and a Philosophy of War Crime

Photo provided by Boris from Vienna.
Photo provided by Boris from Vienna.
By Stephen Benavides

What Is the Dahiya Doctrine?

In the 2006 Lebanon War, Israel Defense Force Northern Commander Gadi Eisenkot, now the deputy chief of general staff, recommended and had approved the application of a military strategy that would target and destroy an entire civilian area rather than fight to overtake fortified positions one by one. This was in an effort to minimize IDF casualties while at the same time holding the entire civilian populace accountable for the actions of a few. A move some called revolutionary in modern warfare, the doctrine did away with the effort to distinguish between militant and civilian, using an overwhelming display of force through airstrikes to destroy the entire Lebanese Dahiya quarter.

The strategy itself calls for the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure in order to induce suffering and severe distress throughout the targeted population. By targeting indiscriminately, the IDF hopes to deter further military attacks against Israel, destroy its enemies, as well as influence the population to oust the militants seen as the primary target. The IDF has planned on using the strategy since 2008, and is seen as doing so in the current conflict in Gaza based on the increasing number of civilian casualties. The result so far has been the death of more than 1,200 Palestinians, including 241 children and 130 women. Of the estimated death count, more than 70 percent have been identified as innocent civilians. The Dahiya Doctrine amounts to the direct use of state terrorism and is now the functioning military policy of the IDF.

The destruction of locations such as UN Relief and Works Agency shelters, mosques and residences of unaffiliated individuals is at minimum an agreed upon collateral objective in addition to the Hamas tunnel system and the militants themselves.

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