Friday, March 20, 2009

Israeli soldiers ran wild in Gaza

Taken from the Toronto Star, Mar 20, 2009
By Oakland Ross

JERUSALEM–Israeli soldiers killed unarmed Palestinian civilians without provocation or warning and vandalized their property during this country's January offensive in Gaza, say some of the soldiers who fought there.

The soldiers blamed the behaviour on poor discipline, lax rules of engagement, and a low estimation of the value of Palestinian life.

The Israel Defense Forces said it had no prior knowledge of the sometimes shocking comportment of its troops, described by the soldiers themselves in a group discussion last month that followed a course they took at an Israeli college.

The IDF said yesterday it would investigate the accounts, which were published yesterday in the Israeli newspapers Haaretz and Maariv.

Haaretz said it would print additional reports in coming days, recounting more acts of serious misconduct by Israeli soldiers during the Gaza operation.

"We have the most moral army in the world," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio yesterday.

"I say to you that, from the chief of staff down to the last soldier, the most moral army in the world stands ready to take orders from the government of Israel. I have no doubt that every incident will be individually examined."

In one incident, Israeli soldiers apparently herded a Palestinian family into a single room of their house and left them there, while the troops took positions upstairs and also set up a sniper's post on the roof.

Several days later, soldiers instructed the family to leave the house, directing them to depart the area by heading to the right. They neglected to inform the sharpshooter on the roof what they were doing.

One mother and her two children mistakenly turned to the left and were promptly shot dead by the rooftop sniper.

"He shot them straight away," the squad leader said during the college discussion.

"I don't think he felt too bad about it, because, after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given."

The same squad leader reported a general attitude of contempt for Palestinian civilians, a mindset that enabled Israeli soldiers to engage in callous or sometimes lethal behaviour.

"I don't know how to describe it," he said. "The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers.

"So, as far as they are concerned, they can justify it that way."

In another incident, a company commander is said to have ordered his troops to shoot and kill an elderly woman walking past them at a distance of about 100 metres.

"You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it – to write `Death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can," said a squad leader who opposed the order.

"I think this is the main thing: to understand just how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It's what I'll remember the most."

Other soldiers described widespread abuses of property.

"We would throw everything out the windows to make room and order," said one soldier.

"Everything in the house was tossed out the windows – refrigerators, plates, furniture. The order was to throw all of the house's contents outside."

Human rights groups have harshly criticized the Israeli military for its conduct of the war in Gaza – including the use of white phosphorus, a chemical harmful to humans – but the reports published here yesterday were the first documented accounts by Israeli soldiers themselves about widespread abuses.

According to the most recent Palestinian figures, 1,417 Gazans died during the three-week conflict, more than 920 of them civilians.

At least one Israeli organization, the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, puts the civilian death toll much lower.

The college course at which the soldiers related their experiences was taught by Danny Zamir, who said he was "shocked" by what he heard and decided to publish a transcript of the discussion in a newsletter for course graduates.

He told Haaretz he believed the military would conduct a serious examination of the reports.

"They do not intend to avoid responsibility," he said.


The Israeli's may blame individual soldiers being indiscipline but it is far from the truth. We have seen many times this sort of action in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon and within Israel - this is not the act of individual soldiers - this is an organised crime by the government. It is great that a pro Israeli newspaper like Haaretz is doing the fact find - just wish our own media in the west would publish reports that were fair and accurate rather than Israeli propaganda.

here's more news...

UN envoy sees Israeli war crimes in Gaza
United Nations human rights investigator said that Israel's massive military assault on densely populated Gaza appeared to constitute a grave war crime.

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the Geneva Conventions required warring forces to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians.

"If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," Falk said.

"On the basis of the preliminary evidence available, there is reason to reach this conclusion," he wrote in an annual report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.

Falk gave the same death toll from Israel's offensive - 1,434 Palestinians, including 960 civilians - as the Palestinian human rights centre.

Israel, which lost 13 people during the war, disputes the figures and has accused Hamas militants in Gaza of using civilians as human shields during the conflict.

Falk called for an independent experts group to be set up to probe possible war crimes committed by both Israeli forces and Hamas.

Violations included Israel's alleged targeting of schools, mosques and ambulances during the December 27-January 18 offensive and its use of weapons including white phosphorus, as well as Hamas firing of rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel.

Falk said that Israel's blockade of the coastal strip of 1.5 million people violated the Geneva Conventions, which he said suggested further war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

The aggression was not legally justified and may represent a crime against peace - a principle established at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi criminals, according to the American law professor who serves as the Human Rights Council's independent investigator.

He further suggested that the Security Council might set up an ad hoc criminal tribunal to establish accountability for war crimes in Gaza, noting Israel has not signed the Rome statutes establishing the International Criminal Court.

The question is will the UN and the rest of the world do anything baout it?

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