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Roof knocking

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Roof knocking (Hebrew: הקש בגג)[1] or "knock on the roof"[2] is a term used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to describe its practice of dropping non-explosive or low-yield devices on the roofs of targeted civilian homes[3] in the Palestinian territories as a prior warning of imminent bombing attacks to give the inhabitants time to flee the attack.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][excessive citations] The practice was employed by the IDF during the 2008–2009 Gaza War, the 2012 Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, and the 2014 Gaza War to target the homes of police officers or Hamas political or military leaders.[11]

Roof knocking occurred during some strikes in the Israel–Hamas war.[12][13]


As early as 2006 the IDF had the practice of warning the inhabitants of a building that was about to be attacked.[14] Roof knocking was used during the 2008–2009 Gaza War, the 2012 Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, and the 2014 Gaza War. In the six months prior to its use, Israel collected data on Hamas members, which they used to issue warnings.[7] Typically, Israeli intelligence officers and Shin Bet security servicemen contacted residents of a building in which they suspected storage of military assets and told them that they had 10–15 minutes to flee the attack,[5][10][15][16][17] although in some cases the delay has been as little as five minutes.[18]

Adoption by the U.S. military

In 2016, it was published that the US military adopted the Israeli battlefield tactic in its war against Islamic State.[19] It was used in an attack against an ISIS storage facility in Mosul, Iraq. As women and children lived in the house, a Hellfire missile was initially shot at the roof as a warning.[19]

2023 Israel–Hamas war

During the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, CNN reported that many people in Gaza said the IDF had abandoned the "roof knocking" policy.[20] In October 2023, a senior Israeli official stated that the practice would no longer be the norm and would only be used under certain circumstances.[21] An IDF officer told the New York Times that instead of the "roof knocking" policy, Israel is issuing mass evacuation orders and leaflets stating that "anyone who is near Hamas fighters will put their lives in danger."[22]


In some cases, residents who were warned about an impending bombing climbed up voluntarily to their roofs to show they would not leave.[5] When Nizar Rayan, a top Hamas military commander, was warned but did not leave his home, he and his family of 15 were killed in the subsequent bombing.[5][7] When faced with similar situations, IDF commanders have either bombed, called off the bombing or launched a warning missile at empty areas of the roof, in order to frighten the people gathered on the roof into leaving the building.[4][9][23]

The New York Times stated that according to Israel, Hamas asked residents to stand on the roofs of buildings to dissuade Israeli pilots from attacking their homes.[9] A NATO report confirmed the practice, describing it as an example of lawfare.[24] However, Amnesty International argued that Hamas' purported call may have been "motivated by a desire to avoid further panic" among civilians, considering both the lack of shelters in Gaza and the fact that some civilians who heeded the IDF's warnings had been casualties of Israeli attacks.[25] Many reporters, including from the BBC,[26] The Independent,[27] and The Guardian[28] have said that they have found no evidence of Hamas forcing Palestinians to stay and become unwilling human shields.


The practice has been controversial, as many human rights and news organizations have shown that 'roof knocks' have killed and injured civilians.[17] In July, 2014, Amnesty International called for a United Nations investigation into what it alleged were war crimes committed by Israeli fighters, and Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director for the organization, condemned the practice.[29] The spokesperson for Gaza Health Ministry indicated that the same missiles used to give warnings are also used in assassinations, resulting in dozens of casualties and deaths where "remains were scattered, making it impossible to identify them immediately".[30]

The Goldstone Report commented that civilians inside their homes "cannot be expected to know whether a small explosion is a warning of an impending attack or part of an actual attack". It stated that the practice is not an effective advance warning, and is instead likely to "cause terror and confuse the affected civilians".[31]

The Israeli Government stated "While these warnings, could not eliminate all harm to civilians, they were frequently effective," and that aerial video surveillance by IDF forces showed civilians departing from targeted areas prior to an attack as a direct result of the warnings.[32] According to the Israeli army, striking homes suspected of storing weapons, when sufficient warning is given to the residents, falls within the boundaries of international law and is legitimate.[33] In November 2014, the most senior US military official, General Martin Dempsey, cited "roof knocking" as an example where Israel "did some extraordinary things to limit civilian casualties" during the 2014 Gaza War.[34]

Salah Abdul Ati, the directory of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights in Gaza, described the "policy of destroying homes" a war crime and accused Israel of attempting to circumvent international law to avoid accountability.[30]

Marouf Hasian Jr., a professor of communication at the University of Utah, describes the talk of the "beneficent usage" of "knock on roof" tactics as one that "plays well in front of American or Israeli audiences who feel that older Geneva Convention rules are too 'quaint' and too solicitous of the rights of civilians who may be aiding and abetting terrorist, but it infuriates critics who argue that satellite surveillance is being used in discriminatory systems that assume that homes of police officers or Hamas political or military leaders can be "precisely" targeted to minimize collateral damage".[11]

See also


  1. ^ עזה: בכיר חמאס חוסל, כ-26 נהרגו בתקיפות (in Hebrew). Ynet. Archived from the original on 2010-05-15. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  2. ^ "What is the Israeli military's "knock on the roof," and why is it being discussed now?". CNN. 2023-10-10. Archived from the original on 2023-10-23. Retrieved 2023-11-30.
  3. ^ "UN report finds: Israel's 'roof-knock' warning no way to prevent civilian casualties - Jerusalem Vivendi". haaretz.com. Archived from the original on 2017-03-14. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  4. ^ a b "IDF phones Gaza residents to warn them of imminent strikes". Haaretz.com. Haaretz. 2009-01-04. Archived from the original on 2009-01-04. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  5. ^ a b c d Harel, Amos; Yoav Stern (2009-01-04). "IDF targets senior Hamas figures". Haaretz.com. Haaretz. Archived from the original on 2009-01-22. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  6. ^ McGregor-Wood, Simon; Miguel Marquez (2009-01-02). "Bush: U.S. Calls for Monitored Cease-fire Pact". abcNews. ABCNews Internet Ventures. Archived from the original on 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2009-01-04.
  7. ^ a b c Schweber, Howard (2009-01-04). "Israel and Hamas: Two to Tango". The Huffington Post. HuffingtonPost.com, Inc. Archived from the original on 2009-02-04. Retrieved 2009-01-10.
  8. ^ Stone, Jeff (July 15, 2014). "Israel 'Roof Knocking' Video Raises Question: Warning Or Human Rights Violation?". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 17 July 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Erlanger, Steven (2009-01-10). "A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2014-07-16. Retrieved 2009-01-19.
  10. ^ a b Rabinovich, Abraham (2009-01-03). "Nuclear fear drives Israel's hard line". The Australian. News Limited. Archived from the original on 2009-02-03. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  11. ^ a b Hasian, Marouf (2016). Forensic Rhetorics and Satellite Surveillance: The Visualization of War Crimes and Human Rights Violations. Lanham: Lexington Books. p. 214. ISBN 978-1-4985-3591-5.
  12. ^ @AJEnglish (October 7, 2023). "Watch the moment Israeli fighter jets strike Palestine Tower behind Al Jazeera's Youmna El Sayed as she reports live from Gaza" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  13. ^ @AuroraIntel (October 7, 2023). "Footage from one of many live streams capturing the impacts during Palestine Tower in Gaza City in the last few minutes after a roof knock earlier" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  14. ^ Urquhart, Conal (2006-06-28). "The call that tells you: run, you're about to lose your home and possessions". guardian.co.uk. Guardian News and Media Limited. Archived from the original on 2013-08-30. Retrieved 2009-01-10. Archived version 2009-01-29
  15. ^ Kurz, Anat N.; Emily B. Landau (2009-01-04). "A response to a Euro-Mediterranean appeal". opinion.jpost.com. The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 2009-01-21. Retrieved 2009-01-10.
  16. ^ Opall-Rome, Barbara (January 5, 2009). "In Gaza, Both Sides Reveal New Gear". Defense News. Retrieved 2009-06-17.[dead link]
  17. ^ a b Withnail, Adam; Viney, Steven (13 July 2014). "Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli 'knock on roof' missile warning technique revealed in remarkable video". www.independent.co.uk. Archived from the original on 16 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  18. ^ "Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report - January 2, 2009 as of 14:30" (PDF). UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2009-01-02. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
  19. ^ a b "US adopts controversial Israeli air strike tactic known as 'roof-knocking'". The Telegraph. April 27, 2016. Archived from the original on January 31, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  20. ^ "Israel seemingly stops "knock on the roof" military tactic. Here's what it means and why it matters". CNN. 11 October 2023.
  21. ^ "Senior Israeli source: Gaza will not be Hamastan; 'roof knocking' policy no longer norm". The Times of Israel. 9 October 2023.
  22. ^ "Why Israel's push into Gaza is killing so many children". Business Insider. 31 October 2023.
  23. ^ "The Gaza War: a strategic analyses" (PDF). CSIS. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2009-04-18. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  25. ^ DOCUMENT - ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: ISRAEL/GAZA CONFLICT, JULY 2014 (Report). Amnesty International. 2014-07-17. Archived from the original on 2018-11-22. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  26. ^ Bowen, Jeremy. "Jeremy Bowen's Gaza notebook: I saw no evidence of Hamas using Palestinians as human shields". www.newstatesman.com. Archived from the original on 2019-10-08. Retrieved 2014-08-27. Netanyahu said Israel had warned people to get out. Some had taken the advice; others had been prevented from leaving by Hamas...I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel's accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.
  27. ^ Sengupta, Kim (21 July 2014). "Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas's human shields". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  28. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (24 July 2014). "In Gaza, Hamas fighters are among civilians. There is nowhere else for them to go". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 September 2019. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  29. ^ Withnall, Adam (July 13, 2014). "Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli 'knock on roof' missile warning revealed in remarkable video". The Independent. Archived from the original on 16 July 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  30. ^ a b "Israel's "knock on the roof" policy: A three-minute race with death". Al Akhbar English. Archived from the original on 4 November 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  31. ^ Schmitt, Michael (2011). Yearbook of international humanitarian law. Hague Berlin: T.M.C. Asser Press Springer. p. 199. ISBN 978-90-6704-811-8.
  32. ^ "The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects" (PDF). Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2009-07-29. pp. 50–51, 100. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2009-08-23. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
  33. ^ "Hamas leader, 20 Palestinians killed in IAF strikes". ynet news.com. Yedioth Internet. 2009-01-09. Archived from the original on 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  34. ^ Rayner, Tom (7 November 2014). "US General Backs Israel's Tactics In Gaza War". Sky News. Archived from the original on 28 December 2014. Retrieved 28 December 2014.