Sunday, March 22, 2009
More Allegations Surface in Israeli Accounts of Gaza War
JERUSALEM — An Israeli newspaper gave a fuller account on Friday of testimonies by soldiers alleging loose rules of engagement in Israel’s war in Gaza, which they said led to civilian deaths and wanton property destruction. One soldier asserted that extremist rabbis had told troops they were fighting a holy war.
The soldier was quoted as saying that the rabbis had “brought in a lot of booklets and articles,” adding, “their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle. God brought us back to this land, and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land.”
He said that as a commander, he had tried to explain to his men that “not everyone who is in Gaza is Hamas,” and that “this war was not a war for the sanctification of the holy name, but rather one to stop the Qassam rockets.”
The account, in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, expanded on shorter excerpts printed Thursday in Haaretz and Maariv, a center-right newspaper, and came from a taped conversation among Gaza war veterans at an institute that prepares soldiers before their service. After the materials were published, the military advocate general began an investigation into the allegations.
The director of the institute where the discussion occurred, Dany Zamir, published the accounts in his newsletter and leaked them to the newspapers to draw attention to what he considered to be troubling revelations. Mr. Zamir is known to be on the left of Israel’s political spectrum.
He is quoted in the excerpts as saying to the soldiers who spoke: “I think it would be important for parents to sit here and hear this discussion. I think it would be an instructive discussion, and also very dismaying and depressing. You are describing an army with very low norms of value, that’s the truth.”
Earlier excerpts included an account of the killing of an elderly woman by a sharpshooter and the killing of a woman and two children by another sniper.
The testimonies published Friday also spoke of the ease with which some houses were damaged.
Another soldier said: “We got an order one day — all of the equipment, all of the furniture, just clean out the whole house. We threw everything, everything out of the windows to make room. The entire contents of the house went flying out the windows.”
The soldier also alleged that when entering buildings, “we were supposed to go up floor by floor, and any person we identified, we were supposed to shoot. I initially asked myself, where is the logic in this?”
“From above they said it was permissible, because anyone who remained in the sector and inside Gaza City was in effect condemned, a terrorist, because they hadn’t fled. I didn’t really understand. On one hand they don’t really have anywhere to flee to, but on the other hand they’re telling us they hadn’t fled so it’s their fault.”
Labels: israeli abuse in Gazan war