Testimonies of three Golani soldiers accused of stealing NIS 2,420 (roughly $605) from a home in Gaza City's Saja'iyya neighborhood during Operation Protective Edge showed Thursday that the soldiers had planned on using the stolen money to fund a social event for the unit's soldiers after the war ended.
"We agreed we would each take NIS 180. We talked about it after we left Gaza, and said that if something happened, everyone would take responsibility," said Staff Sergeant D. from Golani Brigade's 51st Battalion, one of the three soldiers accused of looting cash from a Palestinian home.
Last week, an indictment was filed against the three Golani soldiers at Haifa Military Court.
The Saja'iyya neighborhood is considered to be one of Gaza's most dangerous neighborhoods, and where the IDF suffered the most casualties during the operation.
The incidents detailed in the indictment refer to soldiers serving in the Golani 51st Battalion, who the indictment says stole money, prayer beads and keffiyehs during their searches of the neighborhood. The home from which the soldiers stole the cash was later hit by an anti-tank missile, wounding several soldiers.
Detailing the system the soldiers used to loot the homes, Staff Sergeant D said: "We entered a home in Saja'iyya at 4 am on Saturday night, and began searching for weapons. We had to block the windows to protect us from gunfire, using beds and furniture to do so. Another soldier and I moved the closet to block a window when a box fell out of the closet. He opened it and we saw money, about NIS 2,400. He gave me the money and I put it in my trouser pocket. I wasn't thinking about anything at that moment."
Several hours later, the incident took a potentially deadly turn when a missile was fired at the home. "The house was filled with smoke and fire, including the room where we had been. Some of the soldiers suffered from smoke inhalation and we had to evacuate them using a Namer APC. I gave the money to the driver and we took the wounded to Nahal Oz. I saw another soldier there, and took the money from the driver and gave it to a soldier in Nahal Oz – and then we returned to Saja'iyya."
The defendant also admitted to stealing other items from different homes in the neighborhood.
"We went to other homes in Saja'iyya, and some of them contained prayer beads and keffiyehs. We took some of them and played with them, but I don't remember how many I took because they got mixed together with my grandfather's prayer beads, but it was a small number," he said, adding that he also took "two keffiyehs".
The soldiers' testimonies reveal that they had taken cash from other homes as well, but returned it after feeling guilty. Those involved in the case said they intended to use the money to pay for a social gathering after the war ended.