In the Gaza Strip, Israel’s military used lethal force against civilian protestors engaged in the ‘Great Return March’ of 2018. In its late May 2018 ruling, the Israeli Supreme Court held this use of force as legitimate self-defense. This article challenges Israel’s security response to these protests in an attempt to both unsettle a warfare discourse and to urge for a distinct ontological approach. The article argues that an ongoing settler-colonial project has racialised the Palestinian body as a security threat, and historicises Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy as merely one contemporary mode of dispossessing the native body. This includes a novel framework of armed conflict that has diminished the category of the civilian and expanded the scope of legitimate targets permitting the killing of greater numbers of Palestinians in the language of law; the article calls this legal technology the ‘shrinking civilian’.