Thursday, March 19, 2009

IDF Troops say lax rules of engagement in Gaza allowed lapsed ethics and brutality

How the Israeli army carried out its latest war against Hamas rocketeers, with a civilian population of a million and a half people corralled in the midst of hostilities, came to light at a prep school less than a month after the opposing sides called unilateral ceasefires. The newspaper Haaretz is disclosing eye-witness testimonies from soldiers who took part in Operation Cast Lead, and who claim they saw lead shot indiscriminately at Gazans and their private property wrecked on purpose. It makes grim reading indeed for a nation which supported a "defensive action" by the "world's most moral army," and the leftist paper is bound to get flak for its efforts. Fuller details will be published in tomorrow's newspaper, but it's chilling to read the initial scoop by Amos Harel, headlined:"IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement."

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."

And to learn that during Operation Cast Lead, many women soldiers finally broke through the "mud ceiling" and took part in full combat is not a reason to rejoice, given the circumstances of this lopsided war. Israelity Bites.

This photo drew criticism for being a "glib image". On reflection, Izzy Bee has placed a more gung-ho photo at the start of the blog. Anyone else feel this photo is objectionable? To me, it shows the louche highjinx of an IDF unit and feels real.


Maya Norton said...

I wonder why you chose to use such a glib image on a post of such serious content? I usually respect your postings, but I have to say that I think this is a bad choice.

- Maya Norton
The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy

Izzy Bee said...

It is an odd photo, agreed. Doubtful that it came from the IDF; it looks posed. Still the picture of Israeli soldiers caught my eye and I thought it showed "lax rules" or maybe "lapsed ethics"... I tried to check the exact provenance of the pic. It's online over at Jewcy.
WHy do you say it's a glib image?
No journos were allowed in when the land offensive was on and the IDF troops were occupying houses. Hence the limitation of my choices.