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Gaza explodes, Israel helps blow things up

Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room

guysmiley

TRIBE Member
Queen Noor and Queen Rania have done the more for the Arab/Muslim identify in the West than anyone since Omar Sherreef.

While East Jerusalem and settlements may plausibly be addressed in an agreement by Palestinians/Israelis, I don’t believe the right of return will ever be agreed to by Israel as it would cause a huge in-flux of Arabs in to Israel proper. These Arabs, if they could naturalize as Israeli citizens, would then pose a risk to Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.

It baffles me how the US position on Zionism (since Truman, at least) could support a home for displaced victims of the Holocaust in Israel while at the same time dismiss displaced Arabs in the very same territory. Haas either cavalierly or deliberately mentioned absorption of these displace persons into neighbouring Arab states to the queen of a country that has spent enormous resources (sometimes to the significant displeasure of it’s native populace) to take in Palestinian refugees.
 
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why not

TRIBE Member
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7838465.stm


Gaza doctor's loss grips Israelis


By Lucy Ash
BBC World Service

I first met Dr Izeldeen Abuelaish eight years ago when I made a radio documentary about his extraordinary life and work.

A Palestinian obstetrician who specialises in treating infertility, he lives in the Jabaliya camp in the Gaza Strip, but used to work part-time in Israel helping Jewish women to have babies.

He also had a clinic in Gaza, taught medical school students there and arranged for seriously ill Palestinian patients to be treated in Israel.

He put up with the tedious and sometimes humiliating border checks with dignity and patience.

He stayed calm when one of his own Palestinian medical students told him she was "very, very angry" that he was helping Israelis to have children.

"What if these babies grow up to become soldiers who kill our people?" asked the young woman.


Despite all the suspicion, the hatred and the barriers Dr Abuelaish continued his work.

In 2001, Dr Gad Potashnik was in charge of the IVF clinic at the Soroka University Hospital in Beersheba.

He described Dr Abuelaish as a "magical, secret bridge between Israelis and Palestinians".

But that "magical, secret bridge" is now close to breaking point.

I have stayed in touch with Dr Abuelaish over the years.

Since we met he has had a number of jobs and research posts abroad.

In September 2008 he was about to start working for the European Union in Africa but had to return home after he wife, Nadia, fell ill with leukaemia.


She died soon after his return, leaving him a widower with eight children aged three to 20.

In the middle of the recent conflict, I interviewed Dr Abuelaish for the BBC World Service's Outlook programme.

He told me all the glass had been blown out of the windows of his house, he could hear firing and explosions all around and he was desperately worried for the safety of his children.

Then on Friday afternoon, just a day before the ceasefire was announced, his worst nightmare came true.

"My daughters were just sitting quietly talking in their bedroom at home," Dr Izeldeen Abuelaish told me on the phone between sobs.

"I had just left the room, carrying my youngest son on my shoulders. Then a shell came through the wall.

"I rushed back to find their dead bodies - or rather parts of their bodies - strewn all over the room. One was still sitting in a chair but she had no legs.

"Tell me why did they have to die? Who gave the order to fire on my house?"

In a voice cracked with emotion, he added: "You know me, Lucy. You have been to my house, my hospital; you have seen my Israeli patients.

"I have tried so hard to bring people on both sides together and just look what I get in return."


The victims were Bisan, aged 20, Mayar, 15, Aya aged 13 and the physician's 17-year-old niece Nur Abuelaish.

"My eldest daughter was five months away from finishing her degree in business and financial management. She was looking forward to the future and I was so proud of her."

I remember talking to Dr Abuelaish in his house as his children scurried around him asking questions and singing songs.

Bisan was a cheeky, bright-eyed girl, keen to show off her English and read aloud from her school text book.


During the recent military campaign, Dr Abuelaish, who speaks fluent Hebrew, had been acting as an unofficial correspondent for a Tel Aviv-based TV station, giving daily updates by phone.


It feels to me as if some of our audience is seeing and hearing about the high price ordinary Palestinians are paying in this conflict for the first time


He was determined to let Israelis know as much as possible about the suffering of Palestinian civilians under Israel's bombardment.

Minutes after the shell hit his house, Dr Abuelaish phoned the station's presenter, Shlomi Eldar, to describe what had happened.

The Israeli journalist looked awkward and visibly distressed as the doctor's disembodied voice is broadcast crying: "My daughters, they killed them, Oh Lord. God, God, God."

Mr Eldar mobilised his contacts in the Israel military to open the border and fly the injured girls by helicopter to the Tel Hashomer Medical Centre, the largest hospital in Israel.

He said thousands of viewers had called the station following the harrowing interview with Dr Abuelaish.

"I think this broadcast will change public opinion in Israel," said Mr Eldar speaking by phone from Tel Aviv.

"It feels to me as if some of our audience is seeing and hearing about the high price ordinary Palestinians are paying in this conflict for the first time".

Dr Abuelaish's 17-year-old daughter Shadha is recovering there from an operation which may save her right eye, injured in the blast.

Her 12-year-old cousin Daida is in a critical condition from shrapnel wounds.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said the incident is now under investigation.

"For the time being, all that I can tell you is that our troops fired on the house because they had come under attack from somewhere in the vicinity of the house. Possibly a sniper but I can't confirm that," the spokeswoman said.

Speaking from the hospital, Dr Abuelaish denied that any militants had been hiding in or firing from his house.

"Violence is never the right way. My daughters and I were armed with nothing but love and hope."
 

why not

TRIBE Member
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7838598.stm


New Israel phosphorus accusation



Amnesty International has accused Israel of using white phosphorus in civilian areas of the Gaza Strip.

The substance can kill or cause serious injuries by burning through skin, and it is banned near civilians. Armies may use it to create smoke screens.

The UN and Human Rights Watch have already accused the Israeli army of firing white phosphorus shells in Gaza.

Israel has said all the weapons it used in its three-week offensive in Gaza were permitted by international law.

Amnesty said a fact-finding team found "indisputable evidence of the widespread use of white phosphorus" in crowded residential areas of Gaza City and elsewhere in the territory.

"Yesterday, we saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still-burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army," said Christopher Cobb-Smith, a weapons expert with the Amnesty team in Gaza.

'Unusual burns'

The Amnesty group said one of the places worst-affected by white phosphorus was the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) compound in Gaza City.


Israeli shell fire set the compound on fire on 15 January, burning stocks of food and other humanitarian supplies in a warehouse and coming close to stocks of fuel.

The head of Unrwa in Gaza, John Ging, said at the time that "three rounds that emitted phosphorus" hit the compound.

The Israeli military said it had come under fire from Palestinian fighters inside the compound and had fired back.

Human Rights Watch also said it observed "dozens and dozens" of white phosphorus shells being fired by Israel at the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian medical officials have also said that large numbers of casualties with unusual burns, possibly consistent with exposure to white phosphorus, had been treated at Gaza Strip hospitals.

White phosphorus sticks to human skin and will burn right through to the bone, causing death or leaving survivors with painful wounds which are slow to heal. Its ingestion or inhalation can also be fatal.
 

why not

TRIBE Member
and since pictures say a thousand words:


_45393490_006751482-1.jpg


solution for a "bad neighbourhood": flatten it.


_45393523_006751610-1.jpg


"what's the big deal? at least they still have a nice porch."


_45393584_006750932-1.jpg



"chemical weapons? i don't see any chemical weapons - only legal smokescreens, not used anywhere near civilians."


_45393624_006751327-1.jpg


just think of it as a giant campground, and a really really long camping trip.


_45393640_006751365-1.jpg



worried about where they're going to bury all the dead bodies? no problem - the israeli army conveniently bulldozed the cemetery to make room!


_45391490_006748401-1.jpg



clearly the American International School was a hotbed for terrorism that needed to be destroyed.

_45391507_006748393-1.jpg



no gas? no problem - a single donkey is enough to cart away the remains of your home.
 
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man_slut

TRIBE Member
Saudi warns US over Middle East

A senior member of Saudi Arabia's ruling family has warned the US that it needs to change attitudes over the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and former ambassador to the US, said a failure to alter policies could threaten links.

The prince said ex-President George W Bush had left a "sickening legacy" in the Middle East.

He accused the US of contributing to the killing of Gazans.

Special envoy named

The prince made his comments in an interview with the London-based Financial Times newspaper, following a post-Christmas outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestinians that left more than 1,000 people - mostly Gazans - dead.

On Thursday Barack Obama made his first public statement on the Middle East as US president.

He named former senator George Mitchell as a special envoy to the Middle East.

Correspondents say President Obama's first statement did not significantly depart from earlier US policies.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7847753.stm
 

Lurker

TRIBE Member
Interesting. So, does preparing some kind of legal defense in advance suggest that they understand that they were close to / did cross the line of international law?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7850085.stm

BBC said:
Any Israeli soldiers accused of war crimes in the Gaza Strip will be given state protection from prosecution overseas, the country's PM has said.

Ehud Olmert said troops should know Israel would keep them safe after they acted to protect their country.

Palestinians say 1,300 people died during the offensive, and UN officials want independent probes into whether war crimes were committed.

Meanwhile, a Hamas delegation is in Egypt for talks on cementing a truce.

Israel ended its military operation in Gaza on 18 January, and Hamas declared a ceasefire hours later.

No formal framework for a lasting ceasefire has yet been agreed.

While Israel says it requires Hamas to end weapons smuggling into Gaza and rocket attacks on Israel, Hamas has demanded that Israel lift its economic blockade of the territory.

Soldiers 'safe'

In Israel, Prime Minister Olmert told a weekly cabinet meeting that soldiers who had put their lives on the line for their country need not fear prosecution for war crimes overseas.

"The commanders and soldiers that were sent on the task in Gaza should know that they are safe from any tribunal and that the State of Israel will assist them in this issue and protect them as they protected us with their bodies during the military operation in Gaza," he said.

Israel's military tactics have come under intense scrutiny as evidence has emerged of the high numbers of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza.

Among complaints made by human rights groups are accusations of indiscriminate firing and the use of white phosphorus shells in civilian areas.

Israel has admitted using white phosphorus in Gaza but says it did not break international law in doing so.

White phosphorus is legal for creating smokescreens in open battleground. But rights groups and journalists say it was used in crowded civilian areas.

The weapon sticks to human skin and will burn through to the bone.
 

man_slut

TRIBE Member
A bloodstained wall full of flechettes

Isn't collective punishment grand?

Monday January 26: The Israeli army’s use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas of Gaza has captured much of the world’s media interest. However, the Israeli forces also used a variety of other weapons against civilian residential built-up areas throughout the Gaza Strip in the three-week conflict that began on 27 December.

Among these are flechettes - tiny metal darts (4cm long, sharply pointed at the front and with four fins at the rear) that are packed into120mm shells. These shells, generally fired from tanks, explode in the air and scatter some 5,000 to 8,000 flechettes in a conical pattern over an area around 300 metres wide and 100 metres long.

Flechettes are an anti-personnel weapon designed to penetrate dense vegetation and to strike a large number of enemy soldiers. They should never be used in built-up civilian areas.

The Israeli Army has used flechettes in Gaza periodically for several years. In most reported cases, their use has resulted in civilians being killed or injured. The last reported case was in April 2008, when Israeli soldiers fired a flechette shell at Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana while he was filming in Gaza, killing him.

He was filming the tank at the time and caught its firing of the flechette shell on camera in the split second before he was killed. Other civilians, including children, were killed and injured by the same flechette shell.

The Israeli Army said later that it had investigated the incident and concluded that its troops’ actions were justified – although the film footage of the incident showed clearly shows that Fadel Shana and others who were killed and injured were posing no threat to the soldiers in the tank when they fired the flechette shell, or to anyone else.

We first heard about the use of flechettes in the conflict that began on 27 December some 10 days ago. The father of one of the victims showed us a flechette that had been taken out of his son’s body.

Then, when we went to a Bedouin village in north Gaza, we saw several flechettes embedded in the walls of houses and residents told us that the street had been littered with them after the attack. Today, we found more hard evidence of their use in two other villages.

In ‘Izbat Beit Hanoun, to the south-west of the town of Beit Hanoun, several flechette shells were fired into the main road, killing two people and injuring several others on the morning of 5 January. Wafa’ Nabil Abu Jarad, a 21-year-old pregnant mother of two, was one of those killed.

Her husband and her mother-in-law told us that the family had just had breakfast and were outside the house drinking tea in the sun. Wafa’ and her husband were standing by the corner of the house when they heard a noise, followed by screams.

They turned to go back into their house, but, at that moment, Wafa’ and several other members of the family were hit by flechettes. Wafa’ was killed outright. Her two-year-old son, who was in the house, was struck by a flechette which became embedded in his right knee.

Wafa’s husband, Mohamed Khalil Abu Jarad, and his father were both injured in the back and other parts of the body. One of the flechettes that hit Mohamed Khalil Abu Jarad is still lodged in his back, close to his spinal cord. It was clearly visible in an X-ray that he showed to us. Doctors have not attempted to remove it as they fear that he could be left paralyzed.

At the other end of the same street, we visited the house of 16-year-old Islam Jaber Abd-al-Dayem, who was hit on the same day by a flechette that struck him in the neck. He was taken to the hospital’s ICU (intensive care unit) but died three days later.

Mizar, his brother, was injured in the same attack and still has a flechette lodged in his back. We found flechettes embedded in the walls of these and several other houses nearby – the tiny darts explode out of their shell with such force that sometimes only the fins at the back are left sticking out when they become embedded in walls.

In the village of al-Mughraqa, a few kilometres south of Gaza City, dozens of houses were destroyed or damaged by Israeli bombardments and shelling. Most residents of the area fled from their homes when the Israeli ground incursion began on 3 January. But some did not, with tragic consequences.

They included Atta Hassan Aref Azzam, who feared that if he left his home it would be destroyed. He decided to stay. He and his family remained inside their house because there was frequent shelling and shooting in the area, only going out to fetch water.

At 8.30 am on 7 January, a shell struck the room in which Atta Azzam was sitting with two of his children, Mohammed, aged 13, and Hassan, aged two and a half, killing all three of them. The six other members of the family who were in the house fled to the nearest school for shelter. When we examined the bloodstained wall by which the three were killed, we saw that it was full of flechettes.

http://livewire.amnesty.org/2009/01/27/a-bloodstained-wall-full-of-flechettes/
 

Hi i'm God

TRIBE Member
Anyone make any cease fire bets?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7853803.stm
Israel launches attacks in Gaza

Buildings destroyed during Israel's incursion into Gaza, in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip.
Gazans are struggling to recover from the three-week conflict.

Israel has carried out an air attack in the Gaza Strip and launched an incursion with tanks and bulldozers across the border.

Palestinian sources say there has been fighting near Khan Younis in southern Gaza, with people fleeing their homes.

The incursion follows a bomb attack which killed one Israeli soldier and wounded three near the Gaza border.

It is the worst violence since Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza ended with both sides declaring ceasefires.

An Israeli soldier was killed by an explosive device planted on its side of the border near the Kissufim crossing, prompting troops to opened fire into Gaza.

A farmer was killed, Palestinian officials said.

There is now heavy fighting going on in Khan Younis, south of the Kissufim crossing.

Palestinian sources say 20 Israeli tanks and seven army bulldozers have made an incursion.

Two people were also wounded in an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis.

Hospital sources say one was a member of Hamas' Popular Resistance Committee who was on a motorbike at the time, and the other was a passer-by.

It was Israel's first air strike since the end of its offensive against Hamas. There has been Israeli artillery and naval fire against Gaza targets since the ceasefires were announced.

Israel has closed border crossings into Gaza because of the attack on the patrol, Israeli officials said, stopping the flow of aid supplies to Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

Aid agencies have been struggling to meet the urgent needs of tens of thousands of displaced, homeless and injured people in Gaza.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Gaza says that although the latest fighting has been much less intense than that of earlier this month, it is a reminder that until a long-term truce agreement is drawn up, those levels of violence could return.

The fresh fighting comes as US President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, arrives in the region to seek a more permanent truce.

He will hold talks with Egyptian officials, who have been mediating between Israel and Hamas, before travelling on to Jerusalem and Ramallah.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US supported "Israel's right to self-defence".

"The rocket barrages which are getting closer and closer to populated areas (in Israel) cannot go unanswered," she said in her first news conference at the State Department.

Israel and Hamas declared separate ceasefires on 17 and 18 January, ending an Israeli offensive in which nearly 1,300 Palestinians and 10 Israeli soldiers were killed. Three Israeli civilians were killed by rocket fire from Gaza in the same period.

Israel said its objective to stop militant rocket fire into Israel had been fulfilled.

When Hamas called its ceasefire, it said Israel had one week to fully open all the crossings into Gaza, in order to end an 18-month blockade of the territory that has crippled its economy.

Israel wants guarantees that Hamas militants will not re-arm via smuggling tunnels under the border with Egypt.
 
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diablo

TRIBE Member
A female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time.

So she went to check it out. She went to the Western Wall and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.

She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview.

"Pardon me, sir, I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. What's your name?"

"Morris Fishbien," he replied.

"Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?"

"For about 60 years."

"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop. I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man."

"How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"

"Like I'm talking to a fuckin' wall."
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Wednesday Jan. 28, 2009 05:01 EST
The 60 Minutes report on growing West Bank settlements

Glenn Greenwald

The Jerusalem Post today reports that, according to a newly released study by Peace Now, "the number of new structures in the West Bank settlements and outposts increased by 69 percent in 2008, compared to 2007" and "the settler population grew from 270,000 in 2007 to 285,000 in 2008." Earlier this week, the leading candidate to be Israel's next Prime Minister, Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu, said that while he "has no intention of building new settlements in the West Bank," he "would let Jewish settlements expand in the West Bank if he's elected prime minister."

When it comes to explanations about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Americans are typically inundated with reports about the indiscriminate, civilian-targeting violence engaged in by Palestinian religious fanatics and other extremists who oppose the very existence of Israel. But they hear little about their Israeli counterparts -- the religious extremists and radical nationalists who, with the tacit and sometimes active support of the Israeli Government and military (funded and armed by the U.S.), continue to take over more and more land in the West Bank, imposing ever-harsher and more oppressive conditions on West Bank Palestinians. All of that is making a two-state solution increasingly difficult to envision, if not close to impossible.

Continuing the clear and positive trend of finally having a more balanced discussion of Israel in the U.S. media, 60 Minutes' Bob Simon, on Sunday night, broadcast a very good report focusing on how this settlement expansion occurs, the destructive mentality of the Israeli settlers, the devastating impact which settlement expansion has on the lives of Palestinians, and the ways in which settlement expansions -- by design -- are making a Palestinian state increasingly inconceivable. It also provides a very clear sense of how difficult is the task of Obama envoy George Mitchell, an outspoken opponent of West Bank settlements, who is in Israel today to begin his mediation efforts. [As he typically does whenever there is criticism directed towards Israeli actions in the U.S. media, the increasingly self-caricaturing Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League immediately sprung into action, angrily denouncing 60 Minutes for what he called a "journalistic hatchet job on Israel"].

Much has been made of Barack Obama's ability to present a new and better American face to the world -- and the initial steps have been a clear improvement in many realms (including the appointment of George Mitchell) -- but in much of the world, particularly the Muslim world, perceptions will change (understandably so) only if those pretty words are backed up by actions:

In contrast to the enthusiastic reception Obama's victory has garnered around the world, the Arab world has been more cautious about the new U.S. president - with most skeptical that American policy in the region will change substantially.

"I can't be optimistic until I see something tangible," said Hatem al-Kurdi, 35, a Gaza City engineer who saw parts of the interview. "Anyone can say nice words, but you have to follow with actions."

After earlier dismissing Obama as following the same policies as Bush, officials from the militant Palestinian Hamas group, which rule the Gaza Strip, softened their stance.

"In the last couple of days there have been a lot of statements (from Obama), some of them very positive, and choosing this George Mitchell as an envoy," said Ahmed Youssef, a senior Hamas official interviewed on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news network. "I think there are some positive things we have to count."

In the West Bank, Haytham Rafati was not as optimistic.

"I heard Obama, his tone is different, but I can't believe that any U.S. president can be different when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict," said Rafati, 30, who works in Ramallah. "I will believe Obama is different in his approach to the Islamic world only when I see him pulling out his forces from Iraq and pressing Israel on the Palestinian rights."
Every issue written about here -- civil liberties, restoration of the Constitution, imposing limitations on our virtually limitless surveillance state, decreasing the extent to which our government and political culture are so militarized -- depends, in large part, upon our extricating ourselves from these endless Middle East conflicts. The 12-minute 60 Minutes segment, which is highly recommended for those who haven't seen it, conveys a very clear sense of how difficult that task is going to be and how the blame for this conflict is hardly confined to one side:


 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Ha'aretz does a series of testimonials from IDF soldiers involved in the most recent Gaza offensive. Morbid stuff and important given the paucity of access the media had to Gaza during the operation. It should also be noted that Israel here is one-upping America in its ability to discuss the subject of war crimes and perhaps even prosecute for them.

IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive.

The soldiers are graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Some of their statements made on Feb. 13 will appear Thursday and Friday in Haaretz. Dozens of graduates of the course who took part in the discussion fought in the Gaza operation.

The speakers included combat pilots and infantry soldiers. Their testimony runs counter to the Israel Defense Forces' claims that Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation. The session's transcript was published this week in the newsletter for the course's graduates.
Advertisement


The testimonies include a description by an infantry squad leader of an incident where an IDF sharpshooter mistakenly shot a Palestinian mother and her two children. "There was a house with a family inside .... We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof," the soldier said.

"The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he ... he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders."

According to the squad leader: "The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straight away. In any case, what happened is that in the end he killed them.

"I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given. And the atmosphere in general, from what I understood from most of my men who I talked to ... I don't know how to describe it .... The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way," he said.

Another squad leader from the same brigade told of an incident where the company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman be shot and killed; she was walking on a road about 100 meters from a house the company had commandeered.

The squad leader said he argued with his commander over the permissive rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning the residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, the squad leader's soldiers complained that "we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist."

The squad leader said: "You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won't say anything. To write 'death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It's what I'll remember the most."

More soldiers' testimonies will be published in Haaretz over the coming days.
 
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praktik

TRIBE Member
Soldiers’ Accounts of Gaza Killings Raise Furor in Israel

NYtimes

JERUSALEM — In the two months since Israel ended its military assault on Gaza, Palestinians and international rights groups have accused it of excessive force and wanton killing in that operation, but the Israeli military has said it followed high ethical standards and took great care to avoid civilian casualties.

Now testimony is emerging from within the ranks of soldiers and officers alleging a permissive attitude toward the killing of civilians and reckless destruction of property that is sure to inflame the domestic and international debate about the army’s conduct in Gaza. On Thursday, the military’s chief advocate general ordered an investigation into a soldier’s account of a sniper killing a woman and her two children who walked too close to a designated no-go area by mistake, and another account of a sharpshooter who killed an elderly woman who came within 100 yards of a commandeered house.

But the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel said Thursday that it had analyzed the Palestinian center’s names and found that some that it listed as civilians were identified as combatants on Hamas-related Web sites. Some listed as children were 17-year-olds with guns, it said, adding that more than 500 of those described by the center as civilians it considered “unknowns” because most were men of combat age whose activities could not be easily traced.

It argued that the proportion of women and children among the dead was relatively low, showing that Israel had not killed in an indiscriminate fashion.

Gur Rosenblat, a company commander during the Gaza operation, said in an interview: “To say that people were killed without justification — the opposite was true. We put soldiers at risk to prevent harming their civilians.”

Israeli experts noted that Palestinian women had served as suicide bombers in the past so that soldiers in Gaza did not always know when a woman was approaching whether she was a threat.

One of the soldiers’ testimonies involved the killing of a family. The soldier said: “We had taken over the house, and the family was released and told to go right. A mother and two children got confused and went left. The sniper on the roof wasn’t told that this was O.K. and that he shouldn’t shoot. You can say he just did what he was told.”

Much of what happened in Gaza, some military experts said, was in reaction to the way events unfolded in the second Lebanon war in 2006 when Hezbollah caused many Israeli casualties.

In that war, when Israeli soldiers took over a house, they sometimes found themselves shot at from a house next door. The result was that in Gaza, many houses next to those commandeered by troops were destroyed to avoid that risk.

Still, Israeli ethicists say they are troubled by what they have heard.

“Unfortunately, I think that selective use of killing civilians has been very much on the agenda for fighting terror,” said Yaron Ezrahi, a political scientist at Hebrew University who has been lecturing at defense colleges. “The army believes that a weak spot of Israeli deterrence is its strong commitment not to kill civilians, and there has grown the sense that it might have to temporarily overcome that weakness in order to restore deterrence.”


When asked why that elderly woman was killed, a squad commander was quoted as saying: “What’s great about Gaza — you see a person on a path, he doesn’t have to be armed, you can simply shoot him. In our case it was an old woman on whom I did not see any weapon when I looked. The order was to take down the person, this woman, the minute you see her. There are always warnings, there is always the saying, ‘Maybe he’s a terrorist.’ What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood.”

The testimonies by soldiers, leaked to the newspapers Maariv and Haaretz, appeared in a journal published by a military preparatory course at the Oranim Academic College in the northern town of Tivon. The newspapers promised to release more such anecdotal accounts on Friday, without saying how many.

The academy’s director, Dany Zamir, told Israel Radio, “Those were very harsh testimonies about unjustified shooting of civilians and destruction of property that conveyed an atmosphere in which one feels entitled to use unrestricted force against Palestinians.”

The revelations caused an immediate uproar here, with some soldiers and reservists saying they did not recognize the stories being told as accurate.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that he believed such incidents to be exceptions, adding, “The Israeli Army is the most moral in the world, and I know what I’m talking about because I know what took place in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq.”

It was clear that Mr. Zamir felt that his concerns, which he had raised earlier in a letter to the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, had not been taken seriously and that was why he published the testimonies.

Since the war ended, others have raised similar questions, generating a heated debate within military circles.

“According to the code, a soldier has to do his utmost to avoid civilian casualties and that involves taking some risk,” said Moshe Halbertal, a Jewish philosophy professor at Hebrew University who, along with three others, rewrote the military ethics code eight years ago. “That is the question we have to struggle with. From the testimonies of these soldiers, it sounds like they didn’t practice this norm.”

Amir Marmor, a 33-year-old history graduate student in Jerusalem and a military reservist, said in an interview with The New York Times that he was stunned to discover the way civilian casualties were discussed in training discussions before his tank unit entered Gaza in January. "Shoot and don’t worry about the consequences,” was the message from the top commanders, he said. Speaking of a lieutenant colonel who briefed the troops, Mr. Marmor said, “His whole demeanor was extremely gung ho. This is very, very different from my usual experience. I have been doing reserve duty for 12 years, and it was always an issue how to avoid causing civilian injuries. He said in this operation we are not taking any chances. Morality aside, we have to do our job. We will cry about it later.”

Some 1,300 people were killed in the Gaza war, but how many of them were combatants remains a matter of controversy. Israel lost about 10 soldiers in Gaza, some because of fire by its own forces.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which has documented the Gaza deaths, says that about two-thirds of the 1,300 were civilians, among them 121 women and 288 children, which it defines as anyone 18 and younger.
 
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