All quotes are from Eyal Weizman’s essay Lethal Theory.
The maneuver conducted by units of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi, as inverse geometry, the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of microtactical actions.
You’re sitting in your living room, terrified by the sound of gunfire that pounds at your walls and seeps through the crack under the door. You’ve gathered your three children into the living room, and hushed them as they hide under a blanket your mother-in-law gave you. The TV is on, but you keep it low, hoping the kids won’t notice the images of the war being conducted around them.
During the battle, soldiers moved within the city across hundred-meter-long “overground-tunnels” carved through a dense and contiguous urban fabric.
The sound of shouting reaches your ears from the apartment next door – you’ve rarely talked to the old lady, she largely keeps to herself, but now you can hear her shrieking and weeping.
The living room wall explodes.
You race to the trio on the couch. Their tears are now also running freely, carving tracks in the dust the blowout has smeared across their faces.
Twelve armed men enter the room through the gap, assault rifles at the ready. With only a perfunctory look, they stomp over the rug you thought was such a great bargain last fall, and head directly into your bedroom.
After a moment another thunderous clap rolls through the apartment, and they make their exit.
Although several thousand soldiers and several hundred Palestinian guerrilla fighters were maneuvering simultaneously in the city, they were so “saturated” within its fabric that very few would have been visible from an aerial perspective at any given moment. Furthermore, soldiers used none of the streets, roads, alleys, or courtyards that constitute the syntax of the city, and none of the external doors, internal stairwells, and windows that constitute the order of buildings, but rather moved horizontally through party walls, and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors.