Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Israeli soldiers reveal the brutal truth of Gaza attack.

The testimonies from about 30 Israeli soldiers that were collected by Breaking the Silence have told a tale of the Gaza engagement which goes against the story which the Israeli government's spokespersons have been pushing. Far from going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, the soldiers who have testified have told of a policy in which Israeli commander's told their troops, "You see something and you're not quite sure? You shoot".

Here is some of the evidence given:

On military briefings ahead of the invasion

"We talked about practical matters... but the basic approach to war was very brutal, that was my impression... He said something along the lines of 'don't let morality become an issue. That will come up later'. He had this strange language: 'Leave the nightmares and horrors that will come up for later, now just shoot'... The basic approach was that there were no chances taken. If you face an area that is hidden by a building, you take down the building. Questions such as 'who lives in the building?' are not asked."

On problems with identifying targets for bombing

"It got to the point where we would try to report to field intelligence about a figure sticking out its head or a rocket being launched, and the girl [at field intelligence] would ask, 'Is it near this or that house?' We'd look at the aerial photo and say, 'Yes, but the house is no longer there'. 'Wait, is it facing a square?' 'No more square.'... Later I went in to the look-out war-room and asked how things worked, and the girl-soldiers there, the look-outs, resented the fact that they had no way to direct the planes, because all their reference points were razed... It's highly possible that now the pilot will bomb the wrong house."

On the rules of engagement

"[The Brigade commander] went so far as to say this was war and in war, no consideration of civilians was to be taken. You shoot anyone you see. I'm paraphrasing here, not literally quoting, but the gist of the matter was very clear."

For too long we have had to listen to people like Mark Regev give a story of this engagement which simply did not accord with the evidence on the ground. From the use of white phosphorous to the dreadful amount of civilian casualties, nothing that Regev was stating seemed to fit in with the facts on the ground.

Now, these thirty Israeli soldiers are telling us why. Because the orders given were the utter opposite of what Regev claimed. As, far from going to every possible length to avoid civilian casualties, the army were issuing commands that soldiers should, 'leave the nightmares and horrors that will come up for later, now just shoot'.

* Unprecedentedly loose rules of engagement were put in place to protect Israeli troops. One soldier said his brigade commander and other officers made it clear that "any movement must entail gunfire". He added: "I don't remember if the brigade commander said this or someone else. I' m not sure. No one is supposed to be there. If you see any signs of movement at all, you shoot. These, essentially, were the rules of engagement. Shoot if you like if you are afraid or you see someone, shoot." Another soldier said his battalion commander had said the operation was not "a limited confrontation such as in Hebron, and not to hesitate if we suspected someone nor feel bad about destruction because it is all done for the safety of our own soldiers... if we see something suspect and shoot, better hit an innocent than hesitate to target an enemy". One soldier said the "awareness of each soldier going in is simply... a light finger on the trigger. You see something and you're not quite sure? You shoot".

* Houses were systematically demolished. Despite official accounts that homes were only destroyed for strictly "operational" reasons, one reservist, a veteran of the conflict in Gaza since before 2005, said "I never knew such fire power" used by tanks and helicopters for the "constant destruction" of houses. The soldier said that some houses had been destroyed for normal operational reasons, such as because they had been booby trapped or used by militants to fire from, or had contained tunnel openings. But he said others were destroyed for the "day after" – to make a "very large" area "sterile", to allow better "firing capacity, good visibility and control" once the operation was over. This meant, demolishing houses "not implicated in any way, whose single sin is that it is situated on a hill in the Gaza strip".

Their stories are shocking. Were these stories being told by American troops about the behaviour of the US army in Afghanistan or Iraq there would be outrage in Congress and demands for some kind of investigation into the orders given.

But the subject will simply not be raised in the US, where there appears to be special dispensation for any action the IDF takes. US politicians have always accepted behaviour from Israelis troops that they would not condone if carried out by their own forces.

Click title for full article.


Anonymous said...

Allegations of Israeli war crimes must now be investigated by a war crimes court otherwise there is no democratic process either in Israel or the US. The terrorizing tactic of targeting unarmed women and children by the IDF marks a new nadir in ethnic cleansing. America must review its policy of massive military aid that colludes in such atrocities. Using our tax dollars to terrorize and kill women and children, must stop!

Kel said...

I agree. But I don't see it happening in my lifetime.