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Friday, 20 March 2009

Israeli troops 'admit they killed innocent civilians in Gaza war'

DAILY MAIL 20th March 2009

By Matthew Kalman

Israeli army chiefs began a criminal investigation last night into claims that soldiers killed innocent Palestinian civilians during the recent war in Gaza.

The troops are said to have believed they would not be held to account under relaxed rules of engagement.

The claims were reported in newspapers yesterday, based on a transcript of a discussion at a recruits’ training course.
Gaza attack

Damage: Israeli army chiefs are investigating claims troops killed innocent people

Soldiers who fought in the war, which lasted from December to January, allegedly said: ‘Israeli forces killed civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property.’

In one incident, a Palestinian family whose house had been commandeered, were told they could leave.

As they did, they were killed by a sniper in a ‘breakdown in communication’.

A soldier told students: ‘The commander let the family go and told them to go right. The mother and her two children didn’t understand and went to the left, but they (the soldiers) forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof that it was okay and he should hold his fire.

‘And he did what he was supposed to, following his orders.’

Another added: ‘The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straight away. He killed them.
Gaza attack

‘We fired a lot of rounds and killed a lot of people in order not to be injured or shot at.’

A third soldier said: ‘When we entered a house, we were supposed to bust down the door and start shooting inside and just go up storey by storey – I call that murder. If we identify a person, we shoot them. How is this reasonable?’

He also told of an old woman who was crossing a road when she was shot by soldiers.

‘I don’t know whether she was suspicious or not. I do know that my officer sent people to the roof to take her out. It was cold-blooded murder.’

The level of civilian casualties during the three-week operation caused an international outcry against Israel.

Palestinians say more than half of the more than 1,300 Gazans who were killed were civilians, a figure disputed by Israel.

The soldiers also told of large-scale destruction of Palestinian property. One said: ‘We would throw everything of the windows - refrigerators, furniture. The order was to throw all the contents out.’

Yaakov Amidror, former chief of Israel’s military academies, said: ‘If you see a woman and two children in the crosshairs, it’s pretty clear, there is almost no case in the world that would justify pulling the trigger.’

Israeli officers said they had encountered countless Palestinian suicide bombers who tried to approach the troops and then blow themselves up. They said they had to put the lives of their own soldiers first.

But Danny Mazir, head of the Rabin Academy where the training course was held, said: ‘We expected to hold a discussion about the war. We did not expect the testimonies we heard. We were in total shock.’

Army chief advocate general Brigadier-General Avichai Mandelblit said the accounts ‘paint a picture of unacceptable behaviour, if true’.

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