Israel rejects own soldiers’ accounts of Gaza atrocities
Israeli soldiers have admitted to the
atrocities they committed during the assaults on Gaza, confirming
findings by human rights groups. But the military refused to accept
For the first time in its history, the Israeli Military College has
published very damaging statements and accounts by its own soldiers,
describing their killing of innocent and mostly unarmed civilians and
their wanton vandalism during Israel’s 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip.
Israel launched its attack two days after Christmas and ended it two
days before the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
By the time it declared a unilateral cease-fire, more than 1,400
Palestinians were dead, including more than 440 children, 110 women, and
123 elderly and sick people, according to medical sources in Gaza.
By comparison, 10 Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians died,
four of the soldiers as a result of friendly fire.
The Israeli soldiers’ personal statements and eyewitness accounts
confirmed similar findings by human rights groups who interviewed
civilians and eyewitnesses throughout Gaza.
Many of those interviewed lost family, friends and neighbors, as well
as farm animals, saw their homes, possessions and property reduced to
rubble, and witnessed many war crimes committed during “Operation Cast
Among the accounts by graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin Pre-military
Academy at Oranim Academic College and published in the academy’s
newsletter, one that is particularly horrifying describes an IDF sniper
killing a mother and her small children at close range after Israeli
soldiers had suddenly ordered them to leave their home and run to
The woman and two of her children unarmed, frightened and nervous
allegedly were shot because they misunderstood the soldiers’
instructions about which side of the street to walk down.
In other words, they were shot for going left instead of right.
Another graduate described what he considered the “cold-blooded
murder” of a Palestinian woman.
“The testimonies conveyed an atmosphere in which one feels entitled
to use unrestricted force against Palestinians,” academy director Dany
Zamir told Israel public radio.
“The climate in general ... I don’t know how to describe it.... the
lives of Palestinians, let’s say, are much, much less important than the
lives of our soldiers,” an infantry squad leader is quoted as saying in
In another cited case, a commander ordered his troops to kill an
elderly female civilian walking on a road, eventhough she was easily
identifiable and clearly posed no immediate threat to the soldiers.
The testimonies, by combat pilots and infantry soldiers, also
included allegations of the unnecessary destruction of Palestinian
property and the ransacking and bulldozing of homes.
“We would throw everything out of the windows... refrigerators,
plates, furniture. The order was to throw all of the house’s contents
outside,” a soldier said.
The Israeli military, however, quickly closed the investigation into
the soldiers’ testimonies, calling the accounts inaccurate and stating:
“The military police investigation found that the crucial components of
their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by specific
In a telephone interview, Michael Sfard, legal counselor for the
Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, said, “Such a decision by the
military court is one more crack that makes our moral structure more
shaky and less solid - the more we have such cracks, the less we will be
able to stand up for our values.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations announced that South African Judge
Richard Goldstone will head an international fact-finding mission into
allegations of war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in
Gaza. The former war crimes prosecutor will head a four-member team
whose mandate stems from a resolution adopted by the United Nations
Human Rights Council.
Moshe Hanegbi, legal commentator for Israel public radio, argued that
the investigation should not be conducted by the military, “as it would
not be credible at a time when Israel is accused of war crimes, and
officers could be tried abroad.”
Describing such military inquiries as “white-washed investigations,”
Yesh Din’s Sfard said: “There is a need to create an independent and
external investigation, with a professional body that has no links to
A Yesh Din statement elaborated: “If these orders were given as
described in the testimonies, then both the issuing of the orders and
their implementation are criminal offenses. If Israel does not
investigate its own offenses, other countries will have to.”
Israeli as well as international human rights groups have criticized
the military for failing to properly investigate violations of
international laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions, in its
assault on Gaza, despite compelling evidence of possible war crimes.
This is nothing new, however.
“More than 90% of the complaints filed by Palestinian or Israeli
human right organizations in the West Bank in regard to the conduct of
Israeli soldiers in the West Bank against Palestinians end up with
nothing,” noted Sfard.
“The number of complaints is considerably lower than the number of
events in which Palestinians are victims of the IDF’s brutality,” he
added. “Many Palestinians don’t believe in the system, so they don’t
bother to complain.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International, USA has revealed that the US
delivered hundreds of tons of unspecified weapons to Israel on March 22
- mere weeks after Israel had killed hundreds of civilians in Gaza.
The new weapons shipment raises the question of whether President
Obama would act to prevent further Israeli attacks “that may amount to
war crimes.” This shipment may also be in violation of regulations
governing the sale of US weapons to foreign nations, which are required
to use them for defensive purposes only.
Amnesty International’s London-based International Secretariat has
called on all governments to immediately suspend all arms shipments to
Israel and Palestine in order to end the violence for which civilians
have been bearing the brunt of the suffering for more than a century.
One Shot, Two Kills
The Israeli daily Haaretz disclosed that many Israeli soldiers wear
T-shirts emblazoned with various images of “dead [Palestinian] babies,
mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and
bombed-out mosques.” Photographs of these T-shirts were widely posted on
the Internet, creating much outrage and negative public comment.
One sharpshooter’s T-shirt showed a very disturbing image of the
crosshairs of a sniper rifle lens focused on a pregnant Arab woman’s
stomach. The accompanying caption read, “I shot, 2 kills.”Another shirt
worn by infantry snipers featured the caption “Better use Durex” next to
a picture of a dead Palestinian baby with his weeping mother beside him.
The Haaretz report quotes one Israeli soldier as explaining: “These
are shirts for around the house, for jogging, in the army. Not for going
According to Sfard, however, it’s not important where the soldiers
wear such T-shirts: “This is a keyhole to the mentality of how the
soldiers are trained to think.”
- Third World Network Features