02-03-2010, 07:41 PM
Direct Action Resistance Fighter
Joined: Aug 2006
Israeli officer says rules of engagement ignored
Quote:In a potentially damning admission that will be seized on by Israel's critics, the unidentified commander, who served on the battlefield, revealed that longstanding principles of military conduct were disregarded during the Gaza operation.
The commander's testimony represents a significant setback to Israel's efforts to counter a UN commissioned report, written by retired South African judge Richard Goldstone, which accused Israel of war crimes during the campaign against Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza.
Perhaps because of the sensitivity of the allegations, the senior commander's claims, and the evidence of more junior officers, appear to have been suppressed.
Their testimony was originally made to a reporter from Yedhiot Ahronot, Israel's largest-circulation daily newspaper, five months ago but the publication has so far chosen not to print the story.
The allegations were made public by France's Le Monde and Britain's The Independent newspapers on Wednesday.
According to the senior officer, previously stated rules of engagement requiring Israeli troops only to open fire on combatants if they were carrying weapons and showed intent to use them were ignored.
He said that drones and helicopter gunships were called in before such intent was shown.
The senior commander said such actions were justified because the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were not dealing with a "regular counter-terrorist organisation".
Unlike in conventional battles, he said, Hamas combatants often showed no sign of a carrying a visible weapon - and so blended in with the civilian population - but could still kill Israeli troops by coordinating attacks with remotely detonated explosives.
"A person like that can walk around like any other civilian, he sees the IDF forces, calls someone who could operate the terrible death explosive and five of our soldiers explode in the air," The Independent quoted him as saying.
Another soldier was blunter: "If you see any signs of movement at all, you shoot. This is essentially the rules of engagement."
During the three-week campaign, known as Operation Cast Lead, just 10 Israeli soldiers were killed, four of them in friendly-fire incidents.
Up to 1,400 Palestinians were killed, 1,000 of whom were civilians according to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation. The IDF says only 295 Palestinian non-combatants were killed.
Israel has persistently denied allegations in the Goldstone Report that it carried out war crimes and says internal military investigations have largely absolved it of wrongdoing.
This week, the Israeli government said two officers had been reprimanded over an incident in which white phosphorous was used in an attack near a UN compound in Gaza.
The Goldstone Report also accused Hamas, the of war crimes for carrying out rocket attacks against civilian populations in Israeli towns near Gaza.
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