The Israeli army, in its latest public reprimand, warned its soldiers against using “any type of bulldozer, including those which are made of metal or have metal parts.”
The statement came after the army used a massive military operation to clear the northern West Bank village of Villa Napoli, killing at least two Palestinians and wounding dozens of others.
In response, the army’s chief of staff, Major General Gadi Eisenkot, called on soldiers to avoid using such equipment.
“Any use of such equipment in an Israeli military operation is unacceptable and could constitute an intentional violation of international law,” EisenkOT wrote in a letter to soldiers.
“As a result, we have instructed our soldiers to be mindful of their obligation to obey international humanitarian law.”
He added: “We also ask that you exercise restraint in the use of your military equipment and never use a weapon to kill or wound any civilian, whether Israeli or Palestinian.”
The army has a history of using military bulldozers and other military equipment in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and has in the past.
But the current spate of incidents has raised concerns about Israel’s ability to conduct a military operation safely.
According to a Reuters review of published accounts of recent military operations, Israeli forces have used bulldozers, water mains, tractors and other types of military equipment at least seven times since the start of the year.
The military’s latest public response to the Villa Napolis incident is the latest in a series of reprimands issued by the military since January.
A senior Israeli military official said last month that a large Israeli army bulldozer used to clear Villa Napololi, located on private Palestinian land, “was not an appropriate tool” for carrying out a military mission.
“This is the first time that the IDF has ever used such a bulldoze to clear an area, and we have taken appropriate measures to prevent it from being used,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
Israel has been using its arsenal of heavy weaponry in the West Bank to try to wrest the Palestinian enclave from the Palestinians.
Israel’s military said in December that it has destroyed dozens of Palestinian homes in the last month alone, while at least 30 people were killed by Israeli shelling.
Israel says its forces have also used a helicopter to clear homes from the occupied Gaza Strip of weapons and explosives, and to fire artillery shells into the territory.
In the latest incidents, Israel has also been reported to have used armored vehicles to clear large areas of land in the Palestinian coastal enclave.
The Israeli military has not yet responded to the latest public criticism.
“It is not clear whether the IDF will be able to clear more than 100 dunams (4.5 acres) of the area and continue to operate with impunity,” said Adnan Abu Aida, a senior researcher at the Center for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip.
“Israel is using military tools in an attempt to intimidate and terrorize the residents of the West Wall and the Gaza strip, which they have already done,” he said.
Abu Aideh added that Israel was “in the middle of an incitement campaign that has been going on for several years” and called on the international community to pressure Israel to end its “indiscriminate” use of military force.