Thursday, March 19, 2009

Operation Cast Lead and The Israelis Decent into Terrorism.

Israel troops admit Gaza abuses

An Israeli military college has printed damning soldiers' accounts of the killing of civilians and vandalism during recent operations in Gaza.

One account tells of a sniper killing a mother and children at close range whom troops had told to leave their home.

Another speaker at the seminar described what he saw as the "cold blooded murder" of a Palestinian woman.

The army has defended its conduct during the Gaza offensive but said it would investigate the testimonies.

The Israeli army has said it will investigate the soldiers' accounts.

The testimonies were published by the military academy at Oranim College. Graduates of the academy, who had served in Gaza, were speaking to new recruits at a seminar.

“ The climate in general [was that] lives of Palestinians are much, much less important than the lives of our soldiers ”
Soldier testimony

"[The testimonies] conveyed an atmosphere in which one feels entitled to use unrestricted force against Palestinians," academy director Dany Zamir told public radio.

Heavy civilian casualties during the three-week operation which ended in the blockaded coastal strip on 18 January provoked an international outcry.

Correspondents say the testimonies undermine Israel's claims that troops took care to protect non-combatants and accusations that Hamas militants were responsible for putting civilians into harm's way.

'Less important'

The Palestinian woman and two of her children were allegedly shot after they misunderstood instructions about which way to walk having been ordered out of their home by troops.

"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 saying.

In another cited case, a commander ordered troops to kill an elderly woman walking on a road, even though she was easily identifiable and clearly not a threat.

Testimonies, which were given by combat pilots and infantry soldiers, also included allegations of unnecessary destruction of Palestinian property.

"We would throw everything out of the windows to make room and order. Everything... Refrigerators, plates, furniture. The order was to throw all of the house's contents outside," a soldier said.

One non-commissioned officer related at the seminar that an old woman crossing a main road was shot by soldiers.

"I don't know whether she was suspicious, not suspicious, I don't know her story… I do know that my officer sent people to the roof in order to take her out… It was cold-blooded murder," he said.

The transcript of the session for the college's Yitzhak Rabin pre-military course, which was held last month, appeared in a newsletter published by the academy.

Israeli human rights groups have criticised the military for failing to properly investigate violations of the laws of war in Gaza despite plenty of evidence of possible war crimes.

'Moral army'

The soldiers' testimonies also reportedly told of an unusually high intervention by military and non-military rabbis, who circulated pamphlets describing the war in religious terminology.

"All the articles had one clear message," one soldier said. "We are the people of Israel, we arrived in the country almost by miracle, now we need to fight to uproot the gentiles who interfere with re-conquering the Holy Land."

"Many soldiers' feelings were that this was a war of religion," he added.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that the findings would be examined seriously.

"I still say we have the most moral army in the world. Of course there may be exceptions but I have absolutely no doubt this will be inspected on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Medical authorities say more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed during Israel's 22-day operation, including some 440 children, 110 women, and dozens of elderly people.

The stated aim was to curb rocket and mortar fire by militants from Gaza. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians were killed.
Story from BBC NEWS:

The revelations about Operation Cast Lead are not as surprising as some would think. If one reads BBC news or (horror of horrors) peruses Al Jazeera you would have found out that the Israelis used White Phosphorus in Gaza. Specifically there are very incriminating photos of the Israelis using WP on the UN compound.
The use of WP on dense civilian concentration, Gaza City categorically and the entire strip for that matter, can be considered a war crime. This is because of the nature of WP.
WP is an incendiary. Once set off it undergoes a self-sustaining chemical reaction that only ends when all the substance is exhausted. Very simply WP, once started, is a fire that can not be put out. WP will burn human flesh right down to the bone. If accidentally inhaled in sufficient quantities it will burn out the victims lungs causing a very nasty and very painful death.
The Israeli military has admitted to using using WP on the UN compound but claimed that it was a used by a reserve unit that was not following doctrine. Even if one takes the government of Israel at its word one has to conclude that the Israeli Military’s command and control functions were at best criminally sloppy. Operation Cast Lead had been in planning for months before it was unleashed. Somehow the generals where unable to make sure that all the units were on the same page as far as tactics? Somehow a rouge reserve unit was able to indiscriminately use WP on a protected site sheltering protected civilians? Is the army of Israel really so spectacularly incompetent? Maybe, but not very likely.
The use of WP on the UN compound is exhibit A in the case that Cast Lead was a attempt by Israel to brutalize the civilian population of Gaza. At the very least it is prima facia evidence that Israel had next to no concern for the lives of the people of Gaza. Only a reckless and callous government would let its military repeatedly use WP in a densely populated urban environment.
Israel was that reckless and callous government. It let its military shell Gaza with WP on repeated occasions. It even had the gall to first deny the use of WP even after the BBC and other News outlets published the incriminating photos. The evidence was so incontrovertible the state of Israel was forced to back-pedal from its previous denial. That is when the spin doctors offered the “explanation” of the poorly trained reserve unit. The thinness of that particular bit of whitewash is observable to any person willing to scratch beneath the surface.
The use of WP on the UN compound was all by itself quite possibly a major War Crime committed by the the state of Israel. Taken in total with the rest of Operation Cast Lead the least that can be said is that the state of Israel covered itself with shame. In fighting terrorist organizations it has become a terrorist organization writ large.
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