[News] Israeli troops tell of tactics to abuse Palestinians

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Tue Jun 28 08:56:23 EDT 2005


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<http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/>
The Scotsman

Mon 27 Jun 2005
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Israeli troops tell of tactics to abuse Palestinians

BEN LYNFIELD
IN JERUSALEM

FORMER soldiers in the Israeli Defence Force have come forward with claims 
of widespread abuses against the Palestinians amid what they say is a 
growing climate of "moral corruption".

A group of 300 ex-service personnel gathered together by the Breaking the 
Silence group made a series of damaging allegations about the behaviour of 
soldiers.

In public testimonies, the troops alleged the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) 
routinely carried out "deterrent gunfire" into Palestinian areas without a 
specific target and also used Palestinian civilians to investigate 
suspected bombs and as human shields during arrest operations.

The claims, which are beginning to filter into the Israeli media, contrast 
sharply with government assertions that the Israeli army is a "role model 
for the world" because of its particularly moral behaviour.

Major Sharon Finegold, an army spokeswoman, said: "The Israeli army is a 
role model for many armies in the world and we are pioneers in the war on 
terror."

However, while allegations of mistreatment made by Palestinians or human 
rights groups are dismissed by many Israelis as hostile, those from 
Israel's own soldiers, who undergo three years of mandatory military 
service, carry added weight.

What emerges from the testimonies is that far from being aberrations, 
abuses of Palestinian civilians are institutionalised and come from the 
highest levels of the army.

In one written account by a soldier who served in Ujah village, near 
Jericho in 2001, he describes the "suspicious object" procedure.

"If there is a suspicious object such as a pile of rocks in the road, we 
stop a Palestinian and send him to move the object while the soldiers hide 
behind cover," he said. "The Palestinian is considered unimportant since 
the object was put there by another Palestinian."

Breaking the Silence, which was launched a year ago, recently released 
testimonies showing that the Israeli army in 2001 had killed 15 Palestinian 
policemen as revenge for the killing of six soldiers.

Avichay Sharon, an activist in the group, said the incident reflected a 
pervasive "moral corruption" resulting from the occupation of Palestinian 
territory. "If it's a sergeant at a checkpoint, he will slap people 
around," said Mr Sharon.

"If it's an officer, he will give crazy rules of engagement, if it's a 
brigadier-general it's giving rules in which tanks shoot into cities. Even 
the public becomes morally corrupt. What has happened here is a war on 
civilians, a war on civilian life, a war against women, children, men, 
against millions of people."

The Israeli army said it "welcomed" the claims by Breaking the Silence, 
insisting it was important to report behaviour that was not up to IDF 
standards.

"Unfortunately, they refuse to give us the names of soldiers, making it 
hard to investigate and get to the bottom of things in the cases they 
document," Major Finegold said.

She added: "Searches at 2am save the lives of Israeli civilians who would 
be the targets of suicide bombers. There has been a dramatic reduction in 
Israeli fatalities because of our going into the cities and arresting the 
masterminds of terrorism."



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