The Dahiya doctrine, or Dahya doctrine,[1] is a military strategy involving the destruction of civilian infrastructure in order to pressure hostile regimes.[2] It is a type of asymmetric warfare. It endorses the employment of "disproportionate force" (compared to the amount of force used by the enemy[3][4]) to secure that end.[5] The doctrine was outlined by former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gadi Eizenkot.

A crater in Dahieh in 2008, two years after the 2006 Lebanon War

The doctrine is named after the Dahieh (also transliterated as Dahiyeh and Dahiya) neighborhood of Beirut, where Hezbollah was headquartered during the 2006 Lebanon War, which was heavily damaged by the IDF.[2]


2006 Lebanon War

The first public announcement of the doctrine was made in an interview with general Gadi Eizenkot, commander of the IDF's northern front, published by Yedioth Ahronoth in October 2008:[6]

What happened in the Dahieh quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which shots will be fired in the direction of Israel. We will wield disproportionate power and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases. [...] This isn't a suggestion. It's a plan that has already been authorized. [...] Every one of the Shiite villages is a military site, with headquarters, an intelligence center, and a communications center. Dozens of rockets are buried in houses, basements, attics, and the village is run by Hezbollah men. In each village, according to its size, there are dozens of active members, the local residents, and alongside them fighters from outside, and everything is prepared and planned both for a defensive battle and for firing missiles at Israel. [...] Hezbollah understands well that its fire from within villages will lead to their destruction. Before Nasrallah gives the order to fire at Israel, he will need to think 30 times if he wants to destroy his support base in the villages. This is not a theoretical matter for him. The possibility of harm to the population is the main factor restraining Nasrallah, and the reason for the quiet in the last two years.[5][7][8][6][9]

In 2010, Eizenkot formulated his views in writing as follows:

The method of action in Lebanon [in 2006] was that, in the first stage targets were attacked which formed an immediate threat, and in the second stage the population was evacuated for its protection, and only after the evacuation of the population were Hezbollah targets attacked more broadly. I am convinced that this pattern was a moral pattern, that it was correct to use, and if another campaign is required it will be correct to act in the same way. It is Hezbollah which transforms the hundreds of villages and the Shiite areas of Lebanon into combat spaces. I hope this understanding will cause the organization to consider carefully before it decides to use any more terror, kidnapping, or shootings.[3]

According to analyst Gabi Siboni at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies:

"With an outbreak of hostilities [with Hezbollah], the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy's actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. Israel's test will be the intensity and quality of its response to incidents on the Lebanese border or terrorist attacks involving Hezbollah in the north or Hamas in the south. In such cases, Israel again will not be able to limit its response to actions whose severity is seemingly proportionate to an isolated incident. Rather, it will have to respond disproportionately in order to make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel will accept no attempt to disrupt the calm currently prevailing along its borders. Israel must be prepared for deterioration and escalation, as well as for a full-scale confrontation. Such preparedness is obligatory in order to prevent long term attrition."[10][11]

Noting that Dahya was the Shia quarter in Beirut that was razed by the Israeli Air Force during the 2006 Lebanon War, Israeli journalist Yaron London wrote in 2008 that the doctrine, "will become entrenched in our security discourse."[12]



Destroyed building in Rafah, 12 January 2009

Some analysts have argued that Israel implemented such a strategy during the 2008–09 Gaza War,[13] with the Goldstone Report concluding that the Israeli strategy was "designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population".[14]

The 2009 United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict makes several references to the Dahya doctrine, calling it a concept which requires the application of "widespread destruction as a means of deterrence" and which involves "the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations." It concluded that the doctrine had been put into practice during the conflict.[15] However, in a 1 April 2011 op-ed, one of the lead authors of the report, Judge Richard Goldstone, stated that some of his conclusions may have been different had the Israeli government cooperated with his team during the investigation. The op-ed has been interpreted by some [who?] as a retraction of the report and its conclusions.[16] Goldstone's three co-authors, Hina Jilani; Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers were strongly critical of Goldstone's statement, releasing a joint-statement standing by the report, claiming in response to the pressure to change their conclusions "had we given in to pressures from any quarter to sanitise our conclusions, we would be doing a serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade".[17]

The doctrine is defined in a 2009 report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel as follows: "The military approach expressed in the Dahiye Doctrine deals with asymmetrical combat against an enemy that is not a regular army and is embedded within civilian population; its objective is to avoid a protracted guerilla war. According to this approach Israel has to employ tremendous force disproportionate to the magnitude of the enemy's actions." The report further argues that the doctrine was fully implemented during Operation Cast Lead.[4]


IDF tanks on operations in the Gaza Strip on 31 October

Commentators for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Mondoweiss have noted that the attacks of the Israeli Defense Forces on the civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip during the 2023 Hamas-Israel war may constitute an extension of the doctrine.[18][19] Haaretz reported that IDF had dropped "all restraint" in its war: killed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure at an unprecedented rate.[20]

Writing in The Guardian, Paul Rogers of Bradford University argues that Israel's goal in the 2023 war is to "corral the Palestinians into a small zone in the southwest of Gaza where they can be more easily controlled," and that the long-term goal is to make clear that Israel "will not stand for any opposition."[21]


Richard Falk wrote that under the doctrine, "the civilian infrastructure of adversaries such as Hamas or Hezbollah are treated as permissible military targets, which is not only an overt violation of the most elementary norms of the law of war and of universal morality, but an avowal of a doctrine of violence that needs to be called by its proper name: state terrorism."[22]

Paul Rogers argues that in their using the Dahiya doctrine, Israel will fail in its goal of eradicating Hamas, which will come back in a different form, unless "some way is found to begin the very difficult task of bringing the communities together."[21]

See also


  1. ^ "From War to Deterrence? Israel-Hezbollah Conflict Since 2006". Archived from the original on 12 January 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b 'the threat to destroy civilian infrastructure of hostile regimes, as Israel did to the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut, where Hizbollah was headquartered in 2006' Daniel Byman , A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism, Oxford University Press, 2011 p.364
  3. ^ a b Gadi Eizenkot, A changing threat? The response in the northern theater, Army and Strategy 2.1 (June 2010), p.30
  4. ^ a b "No Second Thoughts" Archived 15 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
  5. ^ a b Amos Harel (5 October 2008). "ANALYSIS / IDF plans to use disproportionate force in next war". Haaretz. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  6. ^ a b חיזבאללה נגד אלוף הפיקוד: ישראל תתמוטט
  7. ^ David Hirst (30 March 2010). Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East. Nation Books. p. 401. ISBN 978-0-7867-4441-1.
  8. ^ "Israel warns Hizbullah war would invite destruction". Yedioth Ahronoth. Reuters. 3 October 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2011. IDF Northern Command chief says in any future war Israel would use 'disproportionate' force on Lebanese villages from which Hizbullah will fire rockets at its cities. 'From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases,' Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot tells Yedioth Ahronoth
  9. ^ "We have immense strength, there will be no excuses", Alex Fishman and Ariela Ringel Hoffman, Yedioth Ahronoth, October 3, 2008
  10. ^ Siboni, Gabi (2 October 2008). "Disproportionate Force: Israel's Concept of Response in Light of the Second Lebanon War". INSS.
  11. ^ Jonathan D. Caverley (1 May 2014). Democratic Militarism: Voting, Wealth, and War. Cambridge University Press. p. 296. ISBN 978-1-139-91730-8.
  12. ^ "The Dahya Strategy: Israel finally realizes that Arabs should be accountable for their leaders’ acts" The Dahya strategy, according to IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot. Interview in Yedioth Ahronoth. 10.06.08.
  13. ^ Cain, Anthony C., ed. (September 2010). "Deterrence and the Israeli-Hezbollah War-Summer 2006". Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century: Proceedings (London, UK 18-19 May 2009). London. p. 288. ISBN 978-1466368187.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  14. ^ Media Summary: Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (Report). Archived from the original on 24 March 2016.{{cite report}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  15. ^ United Nations General Assembly, Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, 25 09 2010
  16. ^ Richard Goldstone (2 April 2011). "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  17. ^ "UN Gaza report co-authors round on Goldstone". The Guardian. 11 April 2011.
  18. ^ Tharoor, Ishaan (10 November 2023). "Analysis | The punishing military doctrine that Israel may be following in Gaza". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  19. ^ "Israel's Gaza onslaught is the next stage of the Dahiya Doctrine". December 2023.
  20. ^ Levy, Yagil (9 December 2023). "The Israeli Army Has Dropped the Restraint in Gaza, and the Data Shows Unprecedented Killing". Archived from the original on 15 December 2023.
  21. ^ a b Rogers, Paul (5 December 2023). "Israel's use of disproportionate force is a long-established tactic – with a clear aim". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  22. ^ Richard Falk (7 January 2011). "Israel's Violence Against Separation Wall Protests: Along the Road of State Terrorism". Citizen Pilgrimage blog.

External links