Hypothetically, if the IDF was a “halachically run” military force; what would be the Halacha against killing innocents?

For example, there is a famous case of the ל"ה troops during the Israeli war of independence. Where they came across an innocent Arab farmer, their orders were to kill anyone but they decided not to because he was innocent knowing that he might tell on them to the local Arab legion. Long story short the Arab farmer told and all 35 died. Is there any Halacha related to killing innocents in a time of war, more so if it was a Jewish/“halachic” army?

  • 3
    That "famous case" is apocryphal. It didn't actually happen
    – Double AA
    Jan 4, 2019 at 17:04
  • 5
    Collateral damage sounds more like property damage. Do you mean to only ask about innocent civilian life? (Who's an innocent civilian? The Arab in the story certainly wasn't. He was a Rodef.)
    – Double AA
    Jan 4, 2019 at 17:07
  • I agree with DoubleA, please clarify if you refer to the loss of human lives or property.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 5, 2019 at 19:39
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    AFAIK, we have no Halahic laws of war conduct, except for מלחמת מצווה probably where everyone is killed. I also think, who's claiming damages and in which court, who are the witnesses and what do we have to say. In Jewish Halacha only a King can declare and run warfare and everything is a subject to his own rulings, not even to Sanhedrin. So King's one to decide I think.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 5, 2019 at 19:45
  • I was was specifically asking about loss of human life.
    – Yaakov
    Jan 5, 2019 at 23:56

2 Answers 2


The concept of noncombatants being spared is extremely new. With the exception of virgin women being captured and not killed (commentaries say this means girls under the age of 3) in the war with the midianites, and giving a city the option of laying down their arms and being subjugated (commentators differ as to what this means), there aren't Torah level explicit rules on what to do with people during warfare.

God, however, can still have an opinion and if you round up an cannanite village and perform mengele experiments on them, he may choose to examine your deeds very finely when he decides, on yom kippur, who will live and who will die.

It is still possible to transgress the prohibition of chilul hashem even if you are otherwise permitted to massacre a population.


Disclaimer: This is not a full, comprehensive answer

The moral of the Jewish army is a big Sugia, discussed by important Talmidey Chahamim, and it cannot be cramped into single MY answer.

However, I'll put here some of our sages teachings, for the benefits of the students.

Sofrim p15 10

תני ר"ש בן יוחי הכשר שבעובדי כוכבים (נ"א שבגוים) בשעת מלחמה הרוג

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochi taught: In time of war, kill [even] the best of idol worshipers [other version: gentiles]

Shvuot 35b

דאמר שמואל מלכותא דקטלא חד משיתא בעלמא לא מיענשא

Shmuel said, a kingdom that kills one of six, is not punished.

(Many Rishonim understand this sentence in different ways, but I think that the simple understanding is regarding to enemy population).

Among others, here is an article on this subject.

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