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Tuesday 2 September  
Israeli soldiers break silence on Gaza conflict. Photo: ANP
Lula Ahrens's picture
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Gaza, Palestinian Territory
Gaza, Palestinian Territory

Israeli soldiers break silence on Gaza conflict

Published on : 15 July 2009 - 3:27pm | By Lula Ahrens
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Shooting indiscriminately, using civilians as human shields and the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas. Anonymous military witnesses have described these practices and the needless death of civilians in a report on the recent military campaign in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead.

Israeli soldiers were ordered to act accordingly, according to testimonies in a report describing the use of 'permissive' rules of engagement released on Wednesday.

They said they had been ordered to fire on any building or person that seemed suspicious, that civilians were sometimes used as human shields and that white phosphorus was used in a way some soldiers regarded as gratuitous and reckless. The report consists of 26 anonymous accounts gathered by the campaign group Breaking the Silence, which is made up of Israeli army reservists.

War crimes
Breaking the Silence is not trying to suggest Israel has committed war crimes, spokesperson Michael Maniken said:

“We just say what happened. The whole war crimes issue we don't deal with.... We have to have a moral compass that says these people are legitimate targets, and those people aren't. That's what armies are for. Otherwise what differentiates us from our enemies, the people who attack our civilians?"

Hearsay
Israel denies breaking the laws of war and has dismissed the report as based on 'hearsay'. In an official reaction to the report,  Israeli army spokeswoman Lt Col Avital Leibovich, said:

“How do you know they are soldiers? How do you know that these people are soldiers... I don’t know who they are.”

Mr Maniken said the military's denial is "not only problematic from a civilian perspective, but also not that smart."

"Thousands of soldiers participated in that operation. They will start talking eventually. At a certain point denying all wrong just makes the system look bad," he said.

Human shields
Emeritus Professor of International Law Theo van Boven said he believes the statements in the report are "reliable and consistent". He said the use of human shields and the use of white phosphorus in residential areas were obviously planned and carried out systematically:

"I think these practices are definitely in violation of the rules of war."

Mr van Boven, a former human rights observer for the United Nations, wants to see a criminal investigation launched against Israel. "There are reports from human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and another report will be released by a human rights commission led by Richard Goldstone," he said.
 

"All these reports together give quite a clear picture of what has happened. In any case, the United Nations will have to give a statement on the issue. A criminal investigation should also be launched, but the question is whether that will happen."   

Michael Maniken is aware that "the enemy will probably use this report against us." But that has not stopped the campaign group from publishing the report.
 

"The problem lies with what has happened, not with talking about what has happened," he said.
 

Recently, Gaza health officials and human rights groups reported that more than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, were killed during the 22-day military offensive. Israel puts the death toll at 1,100 and claims most of them were armed fighters.  

The evidence of war crimes on Israel's part is accumulating. Strong appeals on Israel to comply with the rules dictated by the UN have been made numerous times before.

Excerpt from Breaking the Silence (source: NOS):

Discussion

Thomas - USA 18 July 2009 - 4:09pm
Remember the word KAPO! Europeans always will find willing Jews to besmirch others, all the more so because large sums of money is at play this time around as lure. What is new now, that all you need is a video camera, to conceal the actor's identity, give words into his mouth - and voilá - RNW, Der Spiegel, Guardian etc. can produce on the same day a damning condemnation of Israel and Mr. Beauchemin hurries to collect his prize.... As a non Jewish individual I am horrified by the sheer, unabashed hatred displayed by the EU against the few surviving Jews that escaped the European genocide.
Anonymous 18 July 2009 - 12:25pm
fyi http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3744516,00.html
Thomas -USA 17 July 2009 - 3:13pm
And here comes the truth: These anti-Israel groups are financed - according their disclosure - :" Breaking the Silence presented the Post with its donor list for 2008. The British Embassy in Tel Aviv gave the organization NIS 226,589; the DUTCH EMBASSY donated €19,999; and the European Union gave Breaking the Silence €43,514. The Human Right Watch boss, the Jewish Kenneth Roth, solicited money in Riyad, Saudi A. against Israel. The NGO also received funding from the New Israel Fund amounting to NIS 229,949. So what do you say Mr. Beauchemin about the paid propagandists you present and cherish as truthful?
Steve 20 July 2009 - 5:57pm
The Europeans have engaged in this for a while. Whether you agree with him or not, Geert Wilders' party is the only Dutch party not receiving government funding. That is why he is so concerned about the legal costs of his defense. Since all the other parties offer a unified and unilateral vision they get government money, if not the government gives you none and tries to cripple your descenting opinion. The same principle allows them to buy facts that contribute to articles such as this. Thanks for the info Thomas, I have to admit I am not surprised.
anonymous 17 July 2009 - 3:19pm
Mr. Beauchemin, won't 'break his silence', his lips are sealed...Thanks Thomas for this information.
Hiram 18 July 2009 - 2:16am
"Mr. Beauchemin, won't 'break his silence', his lips are sealed."......His lips might be sealed but his writing style is not. News reporters are known by their investigative skills and writing style. This report showed no investigative skills but generalisations or innuendos. The report, in this case, was an oblique allusion or not straightforward attack against the nation of Israel. It appears who, what, when, where, and why are not part of the reporter's writing style. This report was on the level of the Wilder's interview and Moroccan biscuits. Very weak!
Anonymous 23 July 2009 - 1:23pm
Why should we straightforward attack the nation of Israel? It has been attacked cowardly many times.Stop all the bashing of Israel and see the facts as they are, and allow Israel to survive in this sad and mad world.
Anonymous 16 July 2009 - 1:29pm
Laws are silent in time of war. War is death's feast.There is nothing that war has ever achieved that we could not better achieve without it.
xeinal 16 July 2009 - 5:54am
Israel is guilty of war crimes.....once again. It is time for Israel to get out of the West Bank and return to the pre-1967 boundary set by the United Nations.
حسام مطلق 16 July 2009 - 12:32am
I am not here to justify the Israeli occupation, the occupation is sufficient to be convicted, and all actions after the occupation becomes, even the good ones, bad, because occupation is evil no mater what. My question is, and I am using Mutanabi way " some times the question is an answer : Why not ,even for one time, we here voice of conscience in the Arab world as we see at the Israeli side?. In the Arab world they talk about " loyalty and home " with complete absence of the Citizenship. I do not understand what loyalty may be left for home while they kill the The humanity of citizens
حسام مطلق 16 July 2009 - 12:32am
I am not here to justify the Israeli occupation, the occupation is sufficient to be convicted, and all actions after the occupation becomes, even the good ones, bad, because occupation is evil no mater what. My question is, and I am using Mutanabi way " some times the question is an answer : Why not ,even for one time, we here voice of conscience in the Arab world as we see at the Israeli side?. In the Arab world they talk about " loyalty and home " with complete absence of the Citizenship. I do not understand what loyalty may be left for home while they kill the The humanity of citizens
Hiram 15 July 2009 - 11:33pm
""I think these practices are definitely in violation of the rules of war." "Rules of war" should be applicable to all parties in a war (a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations) but it appears, in this case, the "rules of war" only applies to Israel and how it protects itself from thousands of Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza. { I would advise Mr van Boven, a former human rights observer for the United Nations, to first initiate a crimminal investigation against the leaders of Gaza and the leaders of nations who supply the weapons and terrorists who murder innocent civilians of Israel. When Hamas shoots thousands of rockets indiscriminately into Israel, they make their citizens into shields and are therefore the cause and effect of Israel's attack. { Twenty-six anonymous accounts means zero accounts. It does appear that some reporters for RNW lack the basic, journalistic skills for gathering the facts.
Thomas - USA 15 July 2009 - 10:32pm
The resident Anti-Israel cabal at RNW newest smear tactic is - accusations by the ANONYMOUS. No need to present actual faces, names, ranks and location...all you need is a video camera and someone who got paid to spew lies based on hearsay. We expect that this type of gutter journalism will receive a new "Prize" for truthful reporting just like Mr. Beauchemin did with his sob stories from Gaza. The unbalanced and unabashed visceral hatred radiating from your once prestigious pages. Soon you will be the mirror image of Julius Streicher's Der Stürmer.
Thomas -USA 15 July 2009 - 10:30pm
The resident Anti-Israel cabal at RNW newest smear tactic is - accusations by the ANONYMOUS. No need to present actual faces, names, ranks and location...all you need is a video camera and someone who got paid to spew lies based on hearsay. We expect that this type of gutter journalism will receive a new "Prize" for truthful reporting just like Mr. Beauchemin did with his sob stories from Gaza last year. The unbalanced and unabashed visceral hatred radiating from your once prestigious pages is astounding. Soon you will be the mirror image of Julius Streicher's Der Stürmer.
anonymous 15 July 2009 - 5:41pm
Hamas has used Gazan population as a human shield, which was even reported during the recent clash with Israel. They were deliberately hiding in the civilian population and looting the aid trucks to the Gazans. The Hamas is holding the Gazans as a bait for the Israelis to malign them. Now rnw won't highlight this, but readily pounces upon ant-Israeli headlines to make it an article.
Steve 15 July 2009 - 4:49pm
Because of Europe's efforts to have the Palestinian Liberation Organization propelled to "official" status shouldn't the PLO be held accountable for their war crimes as well. They are much more likely to use civilians as "human shields" for the vary reason that they launch their missiles from very heavily populated areas.
servus 16 July 2009 - 1:42pm
you can not compare one of the most powerfull armies in the world with the palestinian "army" in Gaza. They lauch their "rockets" from the place they can, the most populated jail in the world: the Gaza strip. Everybody knows what Israle has done and is doing there, killing and torturing thousends of people, while people like you talk about secondary things. What is the origin of the problem? Palestians do not have a home thanks to Israel, give them back his place and you will not hear again about rockets!!
Steve 16 July 2009 - 3:48pm
How did Israel get this land? They did not just wake up one day and decide to take it. Over 5 Arab armies attacked them (on multiple occasions) with the hope of killing every Jew living there. They lost, now they cry foul. Their Hitler-esq attempt at genocide failed now they talk of oppression? Human rights agencies have said that Israel AND the Palestinians were BOTH guilty of war crimes. The allegations against the Palestinians are eerily absent from European news outlets. Israel is the only country in the Middle East the Freedom House index lists as free. Most are the lowest rating, "not free". When will Europe stop siding with oppressive dictatorships?
Steve 20 July 2009 - 9:48pm
Still waiting on the response as to how Israel acquired the West Bank and Gaza? I am assuming the silence is because no one is willing to admit that Europe directly and indirectly contributed to the attempted genocide of the Jewish people twice in less than 50 years? All of the invading countries were European allies and economic partners. Many gladly sheltered ex-Nazis from persecution. Many of these ex-Nazis actually contributed to anti-Israel propaganda in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere. Then Europe blames the attempted Genocide on Israel's existence.
Hiram 17 July 2009 - 1:19am
"When will Europe stop siding with oppressive dictatorships?"...When there is no more oil.

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