A Palestinian schoolgirl walks past the rubble of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day war in 2014 summer, on a rainy day in Beit Hanoun town in the northern Gaza Strip April 12, 2015. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

TEL AVIV -- On Monday, an organization of Israeli soldiers known as “Breaking the Silence” released a report containing testimonies from more than 60 officers and soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces who served during the 50-day war against Hamas militants last summer in the Gaza Strip.

The soldiers describe reducing Gaza neighborhoods to sand, firing artillery to avenge fallen comrades and shooting at innocent civilians out of boredom.

Leaders of Breaking the Silence argue that permissive rules of engagement, coupled with the firing of thousands of rounds of artillery and tank shells in the dense urban area of the Gaza Strip, led to massive damage and high numbers of civilian deaths. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed; as many as seven in 10 were civilians, according to the United Nations and human rights groups. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed, including one child.

Israeli military officials (alongside Amnesty International) say that Hamas employed human shields and hid rocket launchers, weapons and fighters in schools, mosques and hospitals.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman declined to respond to details in the report, saying Breaking the Silence refuses to share information with the IDF "in a manner which would allow a proper response, and if required, investigation." The spokesman added that "contrary to their claims, this organization does not act with the intention of correcting any wrongdoings they allegedly uncovered."

The soldiers who testified received guarantees of anonymity from Breaking the Silence. The 240-page book in English can be found online here.

Here’s what the soldiers saw:

First sergeant, Infantry, Gaza Strip:

“There were no rules of engagement. If you see anyone in that area, that person is a terrorist. In this context, it was simple. They told us they have intelligence that there are practically no civilians remaining in the area, and so if someone comes towards us, that person is a terrorist.”

Sergeant first class, Armored Corps, Gaza City:

“The rules of engagement were very, very lax. I wouldn’t say that they shot anything that moved -- but they didn’t request authorization [to fire], either.”

First sergeant, Mechanized Infantry, Deir al-Balah:

“Besides packs of cigarettes, we didn’t find anything valuable. One could say those cigarettes saved some people’s sanity, because there was a day we ran out. And then we stayed put in the house and secured ourselves. ‘You are guarding the tanks,’ they told us, but we didn’t really guard a single tank. We sat around in Gaza and took it easy. We surveyed. They gave us locations to watch. We were staying in abandoned houses.”

First sergeant, Infantry, Gaza Strip:

“They were about to launch the rocket and then (name redacted) yelled, ‘Don’t shoot’ because he could hear people inside the house, he saved an entire family. They found this family in one of the houses and moved them to another house, a two-minute walk from there. It was very weird, protecting them. We put them in the guest room. They were all sitting there on a sofa, on a mattress, sitting and not saying a word. There were a few kids there, and a few women and someone who was definitely the father. He had the air of a father. (Name redacted) guarded them first, and he had a bag of jelly candies in his pocket and he said he didn’t know whether to give them some. In the end we did give the kids some candy.”

First sergeant, Armored Corps, location not given:

"During training, in that respect, [they told us] that we only enter houses ‘wet,’ with grenades, and the more of them the better – and [grenade] launchers if you can use them. You’re going to ‘open’ a house? Don’t take any chances, use your grenade launcher, utilize every effective tool you’ve got. Aim, fire and only then go in. You don’t know if there is or isn’t someone in there. Go in ‘wet’ with grenades, with live fire. These were the orders for entering houses."

First sergeant, Infantry, North Gaza Strip:

“We heard about an old man who went in the direction of a house held by a different force; [the soldiers] didn’t really know what to do, so they went up to him. This guy, 70 or 80 years old, turned out to be booby-trapped from head to toe. From that moment on the protocol was very, very clear: shoot toward the feet. And if they don’t go away, shoot to kill.”

Rank, unit, location withheld:

“Say the target was [Hamas’s] deputy battalion commander in Shujaiyah, an attack would be launched if the number of civilians wasn’t too high. By too high, I mean a two-digit number.”

First sergeant, Infantry, Northern Gaza Strip:

“We fired ridiculous amounts of fire, lots of it, and relatively speaking our fire was nothing. We had spike missiles (guided antitank missiles) and artillery, and there were three tanks with us at all times -- and another two D9s (armored bulldozers). I don’t know how they pulled it off, the D9 operators didn’t rest for a second. Nonstop, as if they were playing in a sandbox. Driving back and forth, back and forth, razing another house, another street. And at some point there was no trace left of that street. It was hard to imagine there even used to be a street there at all.”

First sergeant, Armored Corps, location not given:

“We were firing purposelessly all day long. Hamas was nowhere to be seen -- it’s not like they stood up on some roof for you holding a sign that says, ‘We are Hamas militants.’ You have no idea what’s going on, and because you don’t, your human nature is to be scared and ‘over’ defensive, so you ‘overshoot.’”

Sergeant first class, unit not given, Gaza City:

“We lost several soldiers there (the testifier is referring to the incident in which seven Israeli soldiers were killed when a rocket hit their APC). On the one hand there was that, and on the other hand there was a feeling of craziness in how much fire was used [in the aftermath of the event] -- and once it was over we continued fighting ‘normally.’ The lack of proportionality between the before and after -- some would say that it’s understandable, but my feeling was that even while you’re fighting you can’t lose your sense of proportion.”