Israeli soldiers tell of lax open-fire regulations for Gaza war

2015-05-04 21:34
An Israeli soldier begins to camouflage his face at an army staging area along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Jack Guez, AFP)

An Israeli soldier begins to camouflage his face at an army staging area along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Jack Guez, AFP)

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Tel Aviv - An Israeli group has released testimonies collected from 70 soldiers, pertaining to last summer's war in the Gaza Strip, which appear to show lax open fire regulations and a level of disregard for the protection of Palestinian civilians and property.

The soldiers - according to the publication released on Monday by the Breaking the Silence organisation - say they were told that they could open fire in most circumstances without having to take precautions as Palestinians were instructed to leave the areas.

Under international law "constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population", which would extend beyond an initial warning to all times during conflict.

"The fundamental principle which requires the distinction between civilians and fighters are obscured by permissive and broad open-fire regulations," said Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights lawyer.

The testimonies, released anonymously given the sensitivity of the information, also reveal that damage to civilian infrastructure, such as Palestinian homes, which must be minimised under international law, was often not taken into account during Israeli military operations.

"Every two-three years we enter Gaza for another round of fighting. And every two-three years we set a new bar for crossing moral lines. In Operation Protective Edge, we did things that we would never have considered a few years ago, and we don't know where it will end," said Yehuda Shaul, the founder of Breaking the Silence.

The Israeli army said Breaking the Silence "refused to provide the IDF with any proof of their claims. For obvious reasons such conduct makes any investigation by the relevant IDF bodies impossible".

The army, in an e-mailed statement, also said "exceptional incidents" were under investigation and that the authorities were "committed to properly investigating all credible claims".

So far, three soldiers have been indicted for theft and more than a dozen cases remain open.

Breaking the Silence did request a meeting with the chief of staff in March to discuss the information but says the army "refused to meet".

The United Nations says 2 220 Palestinians were killed during the war, of whom 1 490 were civilians, including more than 500 children. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.

According to the UN, at least 18 000 housing units were destroyed or severely damaged during the war.

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel

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