Wednesday, July 15, 2009


The BBC reports today on a group of 26 Israeli soldiers who claim that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) committed war crimes against civilians in Gaza during Israel's three-week offensive last January.

Writes the BBC on its web site:

"The troops said they had been urged to fire on any building or person that seemed suspicious and said Palestinians were sometimes used as human shields."

Of course, the IDF denies the plausibility of the charges, saying that the accusers are anonymous and that their claims are "hearsay."

The BBC writes:

"Reacting to the report, Israeli military spokeswoman Lt Col Avital Leibovich said:

""The IDF [Israel Defence Forces] regrets the fact that another human rights organisation has come out with a report based on anonymous and general testimony - without investigating their credibility."

"She dismissed the document as "hearsay and word of mouth"."

The testimonies of the 26 soldiers was taken by Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group dedicated to exposing the cruel policies of the IDF towards Palestinians.

Reports Paul Wood, Middle East correspondent of the BBC:

"Until now, Israel always had a ready answer to allegations of war crimes in Gaza. Claims were, they said, Palestinian propaganda. Now the accusations of abuse are being made by Israeli soldiers.

"The common thread in the testimonies is that orders were given to prevent Israeli casualties whatever the cost in Palestinian lives.

"The Israeli military says past allegations of wrong-doing in Gaza were the result of soldiers recycling rumours.

"But Breaking the Silence has a long - and to many, credible - record in getting soldiers to talk about experiences which might not reflect well on the army."

The BBC quotes the report on soldiers' experiences in Gaza vis-a-vis the Palestinian population. Writes the BBC:

"The report says testimonies show "the massive and unprecedented blow to the infrastructure and civilians" was a result of Israeli military policy, articulated by the rules of engagement, and encouraged by a belief "the reality of war requires them to shoot and not to ask questions".

"One soldier is quoted saying: "The soldiers were made to understand that their lives were the most important, and that there was no way our soldiers would get killed for the sake of leaving civilians the benefit of the doubt.""

Here's the BBC on the testimony of another soldier:

""People were not instructed to shoot at everyone they see, but they were told that from a certain distance when they approach a house, no matter who it is - even an old woman - take them down.""

How then can Israel and the IDF escape the tarnish of these reports? It will take more than claiming that the reports hold no validity or that they are merely hearsay to make the world change its opinion that Israel went into Gaza last January with the clear intention of showing Hamas and the Palestinians that the whole population would pay in lives and blood for its opposition to Israel and its harsh policies.

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