How ethical is the IDF?

  • 1 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • December 1, 2022

In the history of war, never before has a military army warned the enemy before they start shooting. It is almost counter-productive.

The IDF does everything possible to avoid civilians while protecting Israeli citizens. Unfortunately, they fight Hamas and Hezbollah, which do everything possible to maximize civilian casualties in the name of marketing and PR, which makes it really tough.

You must always ask what would happen if Israel would not put the Jews in bomb shelters and protected them with the Iron Dome. If Israel would simply let its own citizens die. Would you consider this conflict to be more proportional and then IDF to be more ethical?

The IDF is in a no-win situation. Or it allows Israeli civilians to be killed, or it targets the terrorists, and it is inevitable that civilian casualties will occur.

But the IDF goes to high lengths to avoid civilian casualties, even beyond the letter of the Geneva Convention:

Phone Calls and Text Messages

As part of IDF efforts to minimize civilian casualties, the Army makes phone calls and sends text messages to civilians residing in the vicinities nearby the buildings designated for an attack. We can see an example of a soldier alerting a Gazan civilian alerting for evacuation:


IDF drops leaflets that warn civilians to avoid being present in the vicinity of Hamas operatives. These leaflets urge civilians to move away from Hamas infrastructure targets, making Israel’s intention to minimize civilian casualties clear. Hamas instructed Palestinians to ignore these warnings so that more civilians could be used as marketing material.


“Roof-Knocking” is a loud but non-lethal bomb that warns civilians to evacuate, allowing all residents to leave the area before the IDF targets the site with live ammunition.

Aborting Air Strikes

The IDF sometimes aborts aerial strikes due to the presence of civilians at the site of the target.

Damaging terrorists’ infrastructure instead of destroying to prevent civilian casualties

On 18 June 2022, the IDF damaged, without destroying, a Hamas observation post that overlooks an Israeli town close to the border with the Gaza Strip, in order to avoid casualties in the attack.

Consulting lawyers before launching an attack

The IDF has lawyers specialized in international law to advise the Army before launching any kind of attack. It is called Dabla, the Israeli Defense Force’s elite operational lawyers. Of course, the decision on whether or not to attack still rests with the commander.

While Hamas violates the Geneva Convention by blending military and civilian infrastructure, the IDF goes beyond the Geneva Convention by alerting civilians and saving their lives (meanwhile, the Anti-Israel Marketing Machine dubs such alerts as “psychological warfare”; they really do prefer those civilians dead).

But why does the IDF go to such lengths to save civilian lives? No other army in the world seems to care if the civilians die!

It’s because of the Code of Ethics of the Army, the Ruach Tzahal:

  • IDF Tradition: history of the IDF and its military ways.
  • Israeli tradition: its democratic principles, laws, and institutions.
  • Jewish Tradition: Our people’s history.
  • Universal moral values based on the value and dignity of human life.

You may be thinking: “Well, every army says that”.

Not really. Look into the US Army’s own Code: they value Stewardship (caring for and developing subordinates, peers, and leaders in Character, Competence, and Commitment); safeguarding and maintaining property; and exercising appropriate and disciplined use of resources. In other words, the US Army cares to be wholesome among its peers, to not destroy too much property (not because of civilians but because they need to keep it for themselves during the war), and to avoid wasting too much ammo, planes, and drones, because things are expensive.

By exerting self-control and focusing more on avoiding casualties rather than the mission, the IDF maintains its Purity of Arms, the correct use of war.

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