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What Israeli Soldiers’ Social Media Videos in Gaza Reveal

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“I stopped counting how many neighborhoods I’ve erased,” the caption reads on the video posted to his personal TikTok, accompanied by a militaristic anthem.

Since Israel’s invasion in October, soldiers have shared videos from Gaza on social media, offering a rare, unsanctioned look at operations on the ground. Some have been viewed by small circles of people; others have reached tens of thousands.

The New York Times reviewed hundreds of these videos. Some show unremarkable parts of a soldier’s life — eating, hanging out or sending messages to loved ones back home.

Others capture soldiers vandalizing local shops and school classrooms, making derogatory comments about Palestinians, bulldozing what appear to be civilian areas and calling for the building of Israeli settlements in Gaza, an inflammatory idea that is promoted by some far-right Israeli politicians.

Some of the soldiers’ posts violate regulations of the Israel Defense Forces that restrict the use of social media by its personnel, which specifically forbid sharing content that may “affect the image of the I.D.F. and its perceptions in the eyes of the public,” or that shows behavior that “harms human dignity.”

In a statement, the Israeli military condemned the videos filmed by soldiers featured in this story.

“The conduct of the force that emerges from the footage is deplorable and does not comply with the army’s orders,” the military said in a written statement. It added that the “circumstances” were being examined.

But new videos like these from the ground continue to appear online, a reminder of the many ways social media is changing warfare. In Russia and Ukraine, soldiers now share videos directly from the battlefield, frequently posting footage of combat, at times even giving a first-person perspective from helmet-mounted cameras. Videos have also been posted showing torture and executions.

With ​Israel’s war in Gaza under intense scrutiny, many of the soldiers’ videos shot in Gaza have fueled criticism. One was screened and five others were also cited as evidence in the case that South Africa brought to the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide, a charge Israel has categorically denied.

The Times traced more than 50 videos back to Israel’s military combat engineering units, showing the use of bulldozers, excavators and explosives to destroy what appear to be houses, schools and other civilian buildings.

Human rights experts have raised concerns about the scale of this type of destruction in areas under Israeli military control, noting that international standards of warfare require a clear military necessity to destroy civilian property.

The videos in this story have been verified by determining the dates and locations where they were recorded, or by confirming that the soldiers appearing in them and their units were in Gaza around the time the footage was uploaded.

None of the soldiers who shot and posted the videos responded when asked for comment.

More than 27,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since an Israeli bombardment and invasion of the enclave began, according to the health authorities in Gaza. The Israeli offensive followed the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel, which killed roughly 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

After its ground invasion in late October, the Israeli military established bases along the northern coast of Gaza. The area, called Nova Beach by soldiers, a reference to the music festival where 364 people were killed by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7, is the backdrop for many of the social media videos reviewed by The Times.

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