Friday, March 20, 2009

Holy War: Israeli Soldiers Testify

Israeli Soldiers Testify to War Crimes
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The Pulse
Posted March 19, 2009 - 10:01am

"During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive," Ha'aretz reported today.

At a lecture at a pre-military academy Israeli soldiers and officers gave personal accounts of murder and brutality.

Ofer Shelah in Ma'ariv:

For the first time since the end of Operation Cast Lead, testimonies have come to the fore of soldiers and officers from different units that took part in the operation. The testimonies . . . paint a harsh picture, very different from the IDF reports: Killing people who were clearly identified as innocent, driving families out of their homes to the open area where a policy was in force according to which whoever remained in the area was not an innocent person and could be shot, acts of vandalism and destroying property and humanitarian supplies, and an atmosphere in which the combatants understood that all this was permitted, and would not be investigated.

Among the participants of the evening, which was held about a month ago, were graduates of the pre-military academy from various infantry units, and one pilot. The commanders' instructions, said many of them, were understood as an unprecedented license to fire. In one case, related one of the soldiers, a platoon commander removed a family from its home and sent it into the street. "He told them to turn right," he related. "A mother and two children didn't understand and turned left.

They forgot to notify the marksman on the roof that they were released and that it was all right and he should hold his fire, and he... you could say that he acted properly, the way the instructions were given... the marksman sees a woman and children approaching him beyond the lines from which he was told that no one could approach. He immediately shot them.

I don't know if he fired at their legs, but in the end he killed them.

I don't think he felt too bad, because from his point of view, he did the job according to the orders he was given."

In another testimony, a company CO was described who shot an old woman to death at a range of about 100 meters, from which it is possible to observe clearly whether there is danger.

The combatants also describe great involvement by military rabbis and other rabbis in the units, and free distribution of information booklets describing the warfare in religious terms. As one soldier put it:

"All these articles had a clear message: We are the Jewish people, we have come to the land by miraculous means, and now we have to fight to remove the Gentiles who are getting in our way and preventing us from occupying the Holy Land... a great many soldiers had a feeling throughout this operation of a religious war."

The Military Police has now been ordered to investigate testimony of wrongful behavior of IDF soldiers in the course of Operation Cast Lead, Israel Radio News reports.

This morning it was reported that the director of a pre-military academy, Danny Zamir, sent a letter to the chief of staff with testimony of academy graduates who took part in the combat in Gaza. They spoke of wrongful behavior of other soldiers toward Palestinians, about unjustified shooting and destruction of property. Army sources said that no IDF commander had heard complaints of this sort. A month ago Israel Radio's military affairs correspondent approached the IDF Spokesperson's Office and asked for its response to reports of irregular incidents in the Gaza operation, including the mistaken fire at Palestinian civilians that is mentioned in Danny Zamir's letter. The IDF Spokesperson's Office responded at the time that it did not know of this or any other unusual incident after inquiring with all the army's units. . . . Defense Minister Barak said that he had only heard of this testimony for the first time this morning, and that he is certain that the IDF, which he called the most moral army in the world, would investigate the allegations seriously.

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