03-30-2009, 10:29 PM
Direct Action Resistance Fighter
Joined: Aug 2006
Israel army rejects Gaza war testimonies
Quote:Following a military investigation, Israel rejects the allegations that its soldiers committed war crimes in Gaza during the 22-day war.
A military police investigation had been launched to address the claims that the army had intentionally killed civilians and damaged property after Israeli soldiers who fought in Gaza told a symposium of lax rules of engagement that often denied logic, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
Military advocate general Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit on Monday ordered the unit to close the investigation.
In the wake of the speedy probe, the military said the soldiers' accounts were false and "based on hearsay."
"The military police investigation found that the crucial components of their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by specific personal knowledge," the military said in a statement released on Monday.
Gen. Mendelblit said the soldiers at the conference had "purposely exaggerated" to make a point.
One squad leader had recounted an incident where the company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman, who was walking on a road about 100 meters from a house the company had commandeered, be shot and killed.
The military, however, said "the soldier witnessed no such thing, and was only repeating a rumor he had heard."
Another soldier at the conference had described how a sniper shot dead a mother and her two children from the roof of a house, after soldiers on the ground floor had failed to inform him he should hold his fire because they were ordering the families living in the building to leave.
According to the military statement, the soldier had not witnessed such incident.
"After checking the claim, it was found that during this incident a force had opened fire in a different direction, towards two suspicious men who were unrelated to the civilians in question," read the statement.
At least 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the all-out offensive.
Israeli human rights groups condemned the speed the military had concluded the probe.
"The speedy closing of the investigation immediately raises suspicions that the very opening of this investigation was merely the army's attempt to wipe its hands of all blame for illegal activity during Operation Cast Lead," as the Gaza operation was called, nine human rights groups said in a joint statement, CNN reported.
In accounts published by Haaretz, Israeli soldiers said the rules of engagement in Gaza had left the impression that "inside Gaza you are allowed to do anything you want."
Military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, however, has denied such charges, saying Israel has "one of the world's most moral armies."
Meanwhile, international authorities have yet to address issues surrounding the Gaza war, such as the alleged use of controversial white phosphorous shells in the populated territory and the alleged use of human shields.
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