[News] Israeli soldiers testify on army's immoral behavior in Gaza war

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Wed Jul 15 11:16:12 EDT 2009



Israeli soldiers testify on army's immoral behavior in Gaza war

http://www.imemc.org/article/61120
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  Wednesday July 15, 2009 14:14
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 by Katherine Orwell - 1 of International Middle East Media Center 
Editorial Group 
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A group of 29 soldiers, that served in Israel's recent assault in 
Gaza, anonymously spoke out about the war crimes they committed in 
Gaza. Breaking the Silence, a group of ex-soldiers, that has been 
trying to break the taboo around speaking about the army's behavior, 
collected their testimonies and published them in a report on Wednesday.

The testimonies reveal the use of "accepted practices," the 
destruction of hundreds of houses and mosques for no military 
purpose, the firing of phosphorous gas in the direction of populated 
areas, the killing of innocent victims with small arms, the 
destruction of private property, the use of Palestinian civilians as 
human shields, and most of all, a permissive atmosphere in the 
command structure that enabled soldiers to act without moral 
restrictions. The testimonies demonstrate that the soldiers were not 
given directives stating the goal of the operation and, as one 
soldier testifies, "there was not much said about the issue of 
innocent civilians."

The soldiers confessed shooting at Palestinian civilians, because of 
"permissive and vague" rules of engagement. Israeli officials have 
always stressed that the army had exhausted all the possible means to 
prevent civilian casualties during the Gaza war, but the testimonies 
of the soldiers claim the exact opposite.

"We were told soldiers were to be secured by fire-power. The soldiers 
were made to understand that their lives were the most important, and 
that there was no way our soldiers would get killed for the sake of 
leaving civilians the benefit of the doubt," said one soldier in the report.

Many soldiers said that they fought without seeing "the enemy before 
their eyes." "You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying 
glass looking at ants, burning them," one of the soldiers testified 
that "a 20-year-old kid should not have to do these kinds of things 
to other people."

The testimonies are in line with Palestinian testimonies and the 
outcomes of investigations by international human rights groups such 
as Amnesty International, stating that Israel committed war crimes 
with its indiscriminate and disproportionate behavior.

A limited UN investigation blamed Israel in six out of nine attacks 
on UN facilities in Gaza, resulting in casualties among civilians 
that had sought refuge there. A fact-finding team commissioned by the 
Arab League stated there was enough evidence to indict Israel for war 
crimes and crimes against humanity, and that "the Israeli political 
leadership was also responsible for such crimes".

At the same time Israel denies all the allegations and sets every 
report aside as biased and untrustworthy. A spokesperson of the 
military says the testimonies constitute "hearsay and word of mouth", 
doubting the credibility, since the testimonies were made 
anonymously. Israel bases its defense on an internal investigation it 
carried out itself, that came to the conclusion that the army fought 
lawfully, even though in a few incidents errors did occur.

The testimonies of the soldiers largely state the opposite: Israel's 
immoral behavior was not incidental, but systematic.

One testimony refers to a policy that is called "the day after". The 
soldier states that this policy meant that whole areas near the 
borders with Israel would be razed, to leave behind a "sterile" empty 
area that would make future military operations easier. Under this 
policy houses were demolished without any justification, other than 
that they were located in strategic areas.

"The testimonies prove that the immoral way the war was carried out 
was due to the systems in place and not the individual soldier," said 
Mikhael Mankin from "Breaking the Silence. "This is an urgent call to 
Israel's society and leadership to take a sober look at the 
foolishness of our policies."

1414 Palestinians were killed in the three-week assault on Gaza, of 
which 1177 or 83 per cent were civilians. The UN states that 50,000 
homes, 200 schools, 39 mosques and two churches were damaged or destroyed.

Link to testimonies
http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/oferet/testimonies_e.asp?cat=4




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