Friday, November 24, 2017

Israeli army vets slam policy used in Gaza war


By Editor - May 04, 2015
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Gaza] [Operation Protective Edge] [Breaking the Silence]

Breaking the Silence has harshly criticized the Israeli army for its operational policy during last summer’s aggression in the Gaza Strip, arguing that it lead to “immense and unprecedented harm to the civilian population and infrastructures in the Gaza Strip.”

The Israeli army veterans’ organization, that focuses on collecting in providing testimony about army service in the occupied Palestinian territories, released a report at the beginning of this month containing testimony from 60 Israeli soldiers and officers who fought during Operation Protective Edge last July and August. According to the group, the collected testimonies “are indicative of a general principle that governed the entire military operation: minimum risk to the Israeli forces, even if it meant civilian casualties,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported

The general rules of engagement, according to one soldier quoted in the report, worked on the assumption that “anyone found in an IDF area, which the IDf had occupied, was not a civilian.”

Part of the report contains testimony about the army’s tactic of destroying any and every home occupied by soldiers during the war. The basic ground troops, says one armored infantry soldier, were never clued in to the reasons for doing so. “At no point until the end of the operation,” said infantry soldier, “did anyone tell us what the operational usefulness was in exposing [razing] the houses.”

“During a conversation, the unit commanders explained that it wasn’t an act of revenge. At a certain point we realized this was a trend. You leave a house and there’s no longer a house. The D9 comes and exposes [it]. “

Another soldier went further, adding: “There was one senior commander who really loved the D9 and was really in favor of flattening; he worked a lot with them. Let’s just say that anytime he was in a certain place, all the infrastructures around the building were totally destroyed—nearly every house had a shell in it.”

One infantry soldier detailed an incident in which a unit identified two unkown figures in an orchard, only a few hundred meters away. The army lookouts could not immediately identify them, so a drone was sent up to take a look. Apparently, the two figures were unarmed women in their 30s, talking on cell phones. “The aircraft took aim at these women and killed them,” the soldier said. A tank company commander reportedly arrived on the scene afterward to check the area and found the corpses of the two women. 

According to the soldier who gave testimony about the incident, the fact that the two women were only carrying cell phones was reported to the battalion command by lookouts in the area at the time.  Despite this, however, the women were classified as “terrorists” in the report written afterward. “[The tank commander] left and we moved on. They were counted as terrorists. They were shot, s it’s clear they were terrorists,” the soldier’s testimony reads. 

The incident of the two is just one of several cases documented in the Breaking the Silence report detailing the shooting of civilians. In another case, a woman who was clearly unstable and who posed no threat was reportedly instructed by the battalion commander in the area to walk to an area in which tanks were stationed. Upon arriving to the area, the woman was “machine-gunned to death.” According to Haaretz, this case is one of the few incidents being investigated by the Israeli military police.

Another soldier spoke of an incident in the northern Gaza Strip, in which an old man was shot as he approached an Israeli platoon one afternoon. The forces had reportedly been warned of an older man who might be carrying grenades. “The guy who as in the [guard] position – I don’t know what came over him; he saw a civilian, shot him, and didn’t hit him so well. The civilian was lying there writhing in pain,” said the soldier. 

A second soldier described the same incident, detailing the moment when another soldier eventually shot the man to death. “No paramedic wanted to go near him [for fear he had explosives on his person],” he said. “It was clear to everyone that one of two things would happen: Either we let him die slowly, or we relieve him of his agony. In the end, they relieved him of his agony. A D9 came piled dirt on him and that was the end of the story.” 

The report also covers other practices that some Israeli army combat unites developed during the fighting. According to the testimony of an armored Corps soldier, after the death of a fellow platoon member, the platoon commander announced they would fire a volley of shells in his memory. “Fire like they do at funerals, but with shells and at houses. It wasn’t [firing] in the air. You just chose [where to fire]. The tank commander said, 'Choose the house that’s furthers away, it will hurt them the most.’ It was a type of revenge,” he said. 

During the 50-day long aggression, the Israeli army reportedly fired 36,000 shells, 19,000 of which were artillery shells – far less accurate than tank shells. The impact of an artillery shell will kill anyone within a 50-meter radius, and injure anyone within a 150-meter radius. The standard deviation for such weapons—in other words, the distance by which a shot can miss but still be considered to have hit its target—is 400 meters. The use of such weapons was described in testimony given to 972mag last summer as being similar to playing Russian roulette. 

Testimony from another Armored Corps soldier reveals that after three weeks of fighting, a competition developed between members of the unit to determine who could it more vehicles on a road that reportedly carried cars, trucks and ambulances. 

“So I found a vehicle, a taxi, and I tried to shell it but missed,” he recalled. “Two more vehicles came, and I tried another shell or two, but couldn’t do it. Then the commander came and said, 'Yallah, stop it, you’re using up all the shells. Cut it out,’ So we moved to the heavy machine gun,” he said. 

The soldier said he knew he was firing at civilians. “I think, deep inside, it bothered me a little, Bu after three weeks in Gaza, when you’re firing at everything that moves, and even things that don’t move, at a psychotic pace, you don’t really…good and bad get a little mixed up and your morality starts to get lost and you lose your compass. And it becomes like a computer game. Really, really cool and real.” 

According to statistics compiled by the UN, approximately 2,200 Palestinians were killed during the 50 days of fighting, of whom 1,492 were civilians (551 children and 229 women). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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