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Israeli soldiers reveal Military used reckless force in Gaza

Friday, July 17, 2009 08:15:31 AM, Agencies

Sabreen Al Hellou's bed in Gaza is showered with debris following a bombing (Megan Hirons/Gulf News)

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Why Do So Few Speak Up for Gaza?

Is Israel Winning the 'Media War' over Gaza?

Light through the wall

Jerusalem: About 30 Israelis who served in Israel's offensive on militants in Gaza six months ago say the army pushed them to use reckless force against Palestinian civilians.


"They were continuously told that they shouldn't worry about civilians. Even when they asked, they were told by their generals and commanders that this time they don't have to worry about civilians", said Avihai Stollar who is part of the non-governmental organization in Jerusalem called "Breaking the Silence", made up of former soldiers who advocate moral behavior in the Israeli military. He interviewed a number of soldiers who took part in Operation Cast Lead, Israel's 22 day offensive on militants in Gaza earlier this year. All those interviewed are unidentified.


In a publication released on Wednesday in Jerusalem, the group quotes one soldier as saying his unit used Palestinian residents of Gaza as human shields. He says Israeli soldiers would put rifle barrels on a person's shoulder while advancing into a house with the person in front of the soldier, acting as a shield.

Avihai Stollar further says, the testimonies indicate to him that the brutality that some soldiers describe was the result of the spiritual preparation that soldiers received from rabbis.

"They told the soldiers that it's a holy war. That it's like the days of the Bible. The Palestinians are the nemesis of the Jewish people, and that we have four main enemies, the Israeli Arabs, Iran, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas," said Stollar.

On the other hand, the Israel Defense Forces accusing the group of defaming and slandering the army and its commanders said, the group did not give the military a chance to investigate the allegations before taking its findings to the media.

Israeli army officials have said some rabbis went too far in the briefing and materials they provided to soldiers. They say those rabbis have been reprimanded.

The aim of Israel's 22-day operation in Gaza was to take out Islamist militants who have been firing homemade rockets at communities in southern Israel for years.


Meanwhile a Palestinian human rights group said that testimonies of Israeli soldiers over actions during last January's war on the Gaza Strip will be used as supporting evidence in a legal case against Israeli commanders.


"The report has not come out with new (findings)," said Sha'awan Jabareen, head of Al Haq, a West-Bank Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation.


"However", he said, "It gives an addition that Israeli actions during the war on Gaza were not individual isolated actions, but rather a policy."


Palestinian officials and international human rights organizations - using figures provided by Palestinian sources - say 1,400 people were killed in Gaza during the Israeli offensive.


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