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  • » 07/15/2009, 00.00

    ISRAEL – PALESTINE

    Palestinians used as human shields in Gaza, Israeli soldiers say

    Joshua Lapide

    The organisation ‘Breaking the silence’ collects testimonies, which back charges by the United Nations, the Arab League and humanitarian organisations.

    Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – During Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ operation last December-January, Israeli soldiers used Palestinian civilians as human shields, sending them into houses they suspected were booby-trapped or into tunnels where thought armed men might be hiding, this according to one of many testimonies by Israeli combat and reserve soldiers who took part in the Gaza War that are in a booklet published by the organisation Breaking the Silence.

    The 54 testimonies are anonymous. They reveal how readily houses and mosques were destroyed, even when they were not military targets, how the Israeli military fired phosphorous gas in the direction of populated areas, how innocent victims were killed with small arms, how private property destroyed, and most of all, how a permissive atmosphere in the command structure enabled soldiers to act without moral restrictions.

    “The testimonies prove that the immoral way the war was carried out was due to the systems in place and not the individual soldier," Breaking the Silence’s Mikhael Mankin said.

    But according to Israeli military spokeswoman Lt Col Avital Leibovich, the “IDF regrets the fact that another human rights organisation has come out with a report based on anonymous and general testimony—without investigating their credibility.”

    Humanitarian and human rights organisations had previously made similar charges against the Israeli Defence Forces.

    At the end of Operation Cast Lead, whose declared aim was to force Hamas to stop firing rockets at southern Israeli towns, charges were quickly made that Israel had used excessive force as evinced by the huge number of civilian casualties.

    According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, the total number of Palestinians killed topped 1,400, more than 900 of whom were civilians, including almost 300 children.

    According to the UN, the campaign damaged or destroyed more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties, 200 schools, 39 mosques and two churches.

    Many UN buildings were also hit, causing casualties among civilians who had sought refuge there.

    By contrast, an internal investigation by the Israeli military said troops fought lawfully, although errors did take place.

    A few weeks ago a UN team travelled to Gaza to determine whether the IDF committed war crimes.

    Israeli authorities refused to cooperate with the team charging it was biased against Israel.

    A fact-finding team commissioned by the Arab League also concluded that there was enough evidence to prosecute the Israeli military for war crimes.

    It also said Palestinian militants were guilty of war crimes in their use of indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilians.

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    See also

    05/04/2011 ISRAEL – UNITED NATIONS
    Goldstone Report “legitimate” for UN despite author’s change of mind
    Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew, retracts his conclusions, saying that Israel’s “possible war crimes” in Gaza were not “intentional. A Palestinian family that had 28 members killed by Israeli soldiers responds to the judge. In the past few years, Goldstone was ostracised by world Jews, banned from praying in his synagogue.

    07/10/2009 PALESTINE - ISRAEL
    Closed-door discussion in UN over war crimes in Gaza. Abbas in the eye of the storm
    The discussion will take place at the Security Council, at the request of the Libyan representative. Proposal also supported by the Palestinian mission to the UN. After protests critical of Abbas, the Ramallah government recognizes its "mistake" in slowing down discussions of the Goldstone report in Geneva. In Gaza, banners against Abbas, calling him a "traitor".

    27/02/2009 PALESTINE
    Hamas-Fatat agree on eve of donors’ conference
    Palestinian factions agree to process that should lead to a national unity government. Thus aid for Gaza reconstruction should start flowing in. Israeli daily Haaretz writes that recent war benefited Hamas.

    16/12/2008 PALESTINE - ISRAEL
    Uncertainty over ceasefire between Hamas and Israel
    The militant groups say it will end on December 19. But the majority of the people in Gaza are asking that it be continued.

    06/04/2011 ISRAEL – UNITED NATIONS
    Invited to Israel, Goldstone says no to the nullification of the report on crimes in Gaza
    Interior Minister Eli Yishai invites the South African judge to Israel to thank him for his “courage” on changing his view on the UN report, clearing Israel of the charge of war crimes. However, the minister’s and Goldstone’s statements over the UN report are at odds.



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