Courtesy: Press TV, Wed, 15 Jul 2009
Israeli soldiers have recounted how “permissive” rules of engagement led to the death of civilians in Gaza where the Israeli army alleges that no crimes have been committed. In print and video testimony published on Wednesday by the activist group Breaking the Silence, some 30 soldiers testified that the Israeli Army sought to minimize its own casualties to ensure public support for “Operation Cast Lead”.
The soldiers said they entered Gaza with blazing guns upon a guideline by commanders to shoot first and worry later about distinguishing civilians from combatants.
“Better hit an innocent than hesitate to target an enemy,” one unidentified soldier remembered his seniors as repeating at pre-invasion briefings.
“If you’re not sure, kill. Fire power was insane. We went in and the booms were just mad,” another soldiers told Breaking the Silence. “The minute we got to our starting line, we simply began to fire at suspect places.”
The deadly offensive on the beleaguered Gaza Strip began on December 27 and came to an end after Israel killed more than 1,450 Palestinians, including at least 900 civilians, but failed to topple the resistance Hamas movement.
The 112-page report by Breaking the Silence describes a “Neighbor Procedure” in which civilians were forced to enter suspected buildings as human shields ahead of Israeli troops. There were also cases of civilians advancing in front of a soldier resting his rifle on their shoulders.
The report repeats charges of using forbidden white phosphorus indiscriminately into Gaza streets where Israel’s aerial bombardment and artillery with the help of armored bulldozers razed massive areas, including acres of gardens and farms.
“We didn’t see a single house that was intact … that was not hit. The entire infrastructure, tracks, fields, roads, was in total ruin. The D-9 (bulldozer) had gone over everything,” the report quoted a soldier as saying. “There was a clear feeling…that no humanitarian consideration played any role in the army at present.”
Amnesty International earlier condemned Israel’s war crimes during the onslaught, and described the military action again Gaza’s residential areas as “wanton” destruction — which left an estimated 600,000 tons of rubble to be cleared in the next six months.
Israel, however, denied the charges, asserting that it “did all it could to avoid civilian casualties.”
Following the Gaza war, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi lavished praise upon the army and described the Israeli offensive as the most moral military operation in the world.