Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Israeli commander: 'We rewrote rules of war for Gaza conflict'

Civilians 'put at greater risk to save military lives' in winter attack

Last years's Gaza conflict, Operation Cast Lead, lasted for three weeks
Last years's Gaza conflict, Operation Cast Lead, lasted for three weeks
A shell fired from an Israeli Army tank explodes over a building in the outskirts of Gaza City, as seen from the Israeli-Gaza border
An Israeli soldier prays on top of a mobile artillery position in a staging area near Israel's border with Gaza, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. Israeli troops advanced into Gaza suburbs for the first time early Tuesday, residents said, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Islamic militants that they face an "iron fist" unless they agree to Israeli terms for an end to war in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
An Israeli Army soldier prepares for morning prayers next to his armoured vehicle on the Israeli side of Israel-Gaza border Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. Israeli troops advanced into Gaza suburbs for the first time early Tuesday, residents said, hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Islamic militants that they face an "iron fist" unless they agree to Israeli terms for an end to war in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
A Palestinian man stands next to the rubble of buildings destroyed by Israeli air strikes on January 9, 2009 in Jabalia refugee camp, Gaza Strip
A Palestinian boy is helped as he leaves the Kamal Adwan hospital after being treated for burns following Israeli strikes on January 11, 2009 in Beit Lahia northern of Gaza Strip
Palestinian demonstrators burn an Israeli flag during a demonstration against Israel's military operation in Gaza, in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah,Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. Israel resumed its Gaza offensive Wednesday after a three-hour lull to allow in humanitarian aid, bombing heavily around suspected smuggling tunnels near the border with Egypt after Hamas responded with a rocket barrage. Despite the heavy fighting, strides appeared to being made on the diplomatic front with the U.S. throwing its weight behind a deal being brokered by France and Egypt. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
A Palestinian man carries his son wounded in Israeli army operations into Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. Israel tentatively welcomed a proposal Wednesday from Egypt and France for a Gaza cease-fire and briefly halted its offensive to allow aid to reach civilians, but also gave the military a green light to press ahead with its assault on Hamas. (AP Photo/Ashraf Amra)
Flares from Israeli forces' operations are seen over Gaza City, as seen from southern Israel, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. Israeli forces pounded Gaza Strip houses, mosques and smuggling tunnels on Monday from the air, land and sea, killing at least seven children as they pressed a bruising offensive against Palestinian militants. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
A Palestinian man holds his head in his hands as he reacts at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. Israeli forces pounded Gaza Strip houses, mosques and smuggling tunnels on Monday from the air, land and sea, killing at least seven children as they pressed a bruising offensive against Palestinian militants. (AP Photo/Ashraf Amra)
Palestinians carry a boy into Shifa hospital in Gaza City, wounded during the Israeli army operation in Gaza, Sunday Jan. 4, 2009. Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swaths through the Gaza Strip Sunday, bisecting the coastal territory and surrounding its biggest city as the new phase of a devastating offensive against the Hamas group gained momentum. (AP Photo/Ashraf Amra)
An Israeli soldier wounded in the Gaza Strip arrives at Soroka Hospital in the southern Israeli town of Beersheba, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009.The expansion of Israel's offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers into ground battles and artillery salvos is taking a heavier toll on the civilians of the crowded sliver of land, including three toddlers killed Monday by the blast of a crashing shell. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
A police sapper removes a Qassam rocket launched by militants in Gaza. The Israeli intelligence service was accused of pressuring Palestinian patients seeking treatment to act as spies to find out who is launching the missiles and where
Palestinian school girls walk past a mural of a militant in Gaza City, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008. Palestinians in Gaza are marking the holy month of Ramadan under the strain of an Israeli blockade that has lasted more than a year, since Hamas militants violently seized control of the territory. More goods have been entering Gaza since a June cease-fire went into effect, but a shortage of cooking gas has forced dozens of bakeries to cut back on the number of traditional Ramadan pastries they produce. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinian children and a man wounded in Israeli missile strikes are seen in the emergency area at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
An explosion from an Israeli missile strike in the northern Gaza Strip as seen from the Israeli community of Netiv Hasara, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Palestinian firefighters try to assist at the site of a security compound used by the Islamic group Hamas following an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said more than 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded.(AP Photo/Hatem Omar)
In this image taken from APTN video men stand outside a destroyed police station after Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security compounds across Gaza in Gaza City on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008. Hamas and medics reported that dozens of people were killed and that others were still buried under the rubble. The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion, as black clouds of smoke rose above Gaza. (AP Photo/APTN)
In this image taken from APTN video young men carry a badly injured man on a stretcher to an awaiting vehicle as debris lies in the road after Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security compounds across Gaza in Gaza City on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008. Hamas and medics reported that dozens of people were killed and that others were still buried under the rubble. The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion, as black clouds of smoke rose above Gaza. (AP Photo/APTN)
Smoke rises from Israeli missile strikes in the northern Gaza Strip as seen from the Israeli community of Netiv Hasara, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in an unprecedented series of simultaneous strikes. Hamas and medics reported that dozens of people were killed and that others were still buried under the rubble. Health Ministry official Moawiya Hassanain said at least 120 people were killed. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
In this image taken from APTN video, Palestinian men carry two injured children into hospital after Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security compounds across Gaza in Gaza City on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008. Hamas and medics reported that dozens of people were killed and that others were still buried under the rubble. The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion, as black clouds of smoke rose above Gaza. (AP Photo/APTN)
Palestinian relatives of security force officers of the Islamic group Hamas react after seeing their bodies at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from Gaza pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of air strikes Saturday, killing at least 155 and wounding more than 310 in the bloodiest day in Gaza in decades.(AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian security force officer carries a wounded girl into the emergency room at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from Gaza pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of air strikes Saturday, killing at least 155 and wounding more than 310 in the bloodiest day in Gaza in decades.(AP Photo/Majed Hamdan)
Israeli soldiers run away to avoid a stun grenade thrown by another soldier by mistake during clashes with Palestinians, following a demonstration against the Israeli missiles strike on Gaza, at the Kalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Hundreds of Hamas supporters protest in Damascus, Syria on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008 against an Israeli raid on Gaza that killed some 145 Palestinians. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo Bassem/ Tellawi)
A Palestinian women and supporter of Hamas accompanied by a child are seen during a protest in Damascus, Syria on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008 against an Israeli raid on Gaza that killed some 145 Palestinians. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/ Bassem Tellawi).
A Palestinian man gives an Hamas Islamic symbol during a protest in Damascus, Syria on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008 against an Israeli raid on Gaza that killed some 145 Palestinians. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/ Bassem Tellawi)
A Palestinian woman cries during a protest in Damascus, Syria on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008 against an Israeli raid on Gaza that killed some 145 Palestinians. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)
Palestinian women run away during clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, following a demonstration against the Israeli missiles strike on Gaza, at the Kalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
A Palestinian man wounded in an Israeli missile strike is carried into the emergency area at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said more than 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded.(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinians wounded in Israeli missile strikes are seen in the emergency area at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians gather at the site of a security compound used by the Islamic group Hamas following an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said more than 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded.(AP Photo/Hatem Omar)
Palestinians run for cover following an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said more than 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded.(AP Photo/Hatem Omar)
Smoke rises over Gaza City, following an Israeli air strike at the Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from Gaza pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of air strikes Saturday, killing at least 155 and wounding more than 310 in the bloodiest day in Gaza in decades. (AP Photo/Ashraf Amra)
Israeli soldiers fire rubber bullets and throw stun grenades at Palestinian demonstrators during clashes following a demonstration against the Israeli missiles strike on Gaza, at the Kalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from Gaza pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of air strikes Saturday, killing at least 155 and wounding more than 310 in the bloodiest day in Gaza in decades. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish fire at a burning building after an Israeli missile strike in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. Israeli warplanes pressing one of Israel's deadliest assaults ever on Palestinian militants dropped bombs and missiles on a top security installation and dozens of other targets across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Sunday. Israel's Cabinet authorized a callup of at least 6,500 reserve soldiers, suggesting plans to expand an offensive against Gaza rocket squads that has already killed some 280 Palestinians. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinians gather in the crater of an Israeli missile strike on a building used by the Islamic group Hamas in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. More than 270 Palestinians, have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel's campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
An injured Palestinian prisoner is helped as he and others flee through the rubble of the central security headquarters and prison, known as the Saraya, after it was hit in an Israeli missile strike in in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. More than 270 Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel's campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday.(AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian women and supporter of Hamas accompanied by a child are seen during a protest in Damascus, Syria on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008 against an Israeli raid on Gaza that killed some 145 Palestinians. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/ Bassem Tellawi).
A Palestinian man gives an Hamas Islamic symbol during a protest in Damascus, Syria on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008 against an Israeli raid on Gaza that killed some 145 Palestinians. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/ Bassem Tellawi)
A Palestinian woman cries during a protest in Damascus, Syria on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008 against an Israeli raid on Gaza that killed some 145 Palestinians. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)
Hundreds of Hamas supporters protest in Damascus, Syria on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008 against an Israeli raid on Gaza that killed some 145 Palestinians. Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of security compounds across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of air strikes. Gaza medics said at least 145 people were killed and more than 310 wounded in the single deadliest day in Gaza fighting in recent memory. (AP Photo Bassem/ Tellawi)
A Palestinian family rushes from the scene of an Israeli missile strike on a building in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. Gazans cowered in their homes Sunday as Israeli warplanes pressing one of Israel's deadliest assaults ever on Palestinian militants unleashed missiles on weapons warehouses, a police station, the homes of militant field commanders and dozens of other targets across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.More than 270 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel's campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday. (AP Photo/MaanImages, Hatem Omar)
Palestinians gather at the scene of an Israeli missile strike on a building in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. Gazans cowered in their homes Sunday as Israeli warplanes pressing one of Israel's deadliest assaults ever on Palestinian militants unleashed missiles on weapons warehouses, a police station, the homes of militant field commanders and dozens of other targets across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. More than 270 Palestinians _ most of them militants _ have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel's campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday.(AP Photo/Hatem Omar,MaanImages)
A bulldozer tries to push sand on a fire after an Israeli missile strike on a building in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. Gazans covered in their homes Sunday as Israeli warplanes pressing one of Israel's deadliest assaults ever on Palestinian militants unleashed missiles on weapons warehouses, a police station, the homes of militant field commanders and dozens of other targets across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hatem Omar,MaanImages)
Israeli Arabs and left wing activists wave Palestinians flags during a protest against the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing more than 200 people and wounding nearly 400 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli police officers scuffle with Israeli left wing activists during a protest against the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing more than 200 people and wounding nearly 400 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli hospital patients and their families wait in a bomb shelter in Ashkelon Barzily hospital, southern Israel, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing more than 200 people and wounding nearly 400 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
An Israeli police officer inspects damage to a house that was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza which killed a man in the southern Israeli town of Netivot near Gaza, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing more than 200 people and wounding nearly 400 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
An injured Palestinian security force officer from Hamas crawls as he waits for assistance at the site of an Israeli missile strike at the security headquarters in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing more than 200 people and wounding nearly 400 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years. (AP Photo/Thaer Al-Hasani)
Palestinians throw rocks at Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israeli strikes in Gaza in the Jerusalem neighborhood of A-tur, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from Gaza pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of air strikes Saturday, killing at least 155 and wounding more than 310 in the bloodiest day in Gaza in decades. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
An Israeli soldier prays on top of a tank at a staging area near the Sufa Crossing just outside the southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. Gazans cowered in their homes Sunday as Israeli warplanes pressing one of Israel's deadliest assaults ever on Palestinian militants unleashed missiles on weapons warehouses, a police station, the homes of militant field commanders and dozens of other targets across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.More than 270 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel's campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
A Palestinian man wounded in an Israeli missile strike is carried into the emergency area at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said more than 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded.(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
A Palestinian girl wounded in an Israeli missile strike is carried into the emergency area at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from Gaza pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of air strikes Saturday, killing at least 155 and wounding more than 310 in the bloodiest day in Gaza in decades. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinians carry the body of a Palestinan from the rubble following an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008.Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said more than 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded.(AP Photo/Hatem Omar)
Palestinians gather at the site of a security compound used by the Islamic group Hamas following an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said more than 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded.(AP Photo/Hatem Omar)
Palestinians carry the body of a Palestinian killed in an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes demolished dozens of Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous air strikes. Gaza medics said more than 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded. (AP Photo/Hatem Omar)
Palestinian prisoners flee over the rubble of the central security headquarters and prison, known as the Saraya, after it was hit during an Israeli missile strike, in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. Some 280 Palestinians have been killed and 600 people wounded since Israel's campaign to quash rocket barrages from Gaza began midday Saturday, a Gaza health official said. Most of the dead were Hamas police. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
In this image taken from APTN video young men carry a badly injured man on a stretcher to an awaiting vehicle after Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security compounds across Gaza in Gaza City on Saturday Dec. 27, 2008. Hamas and medics reported that dozens of people were killed and that others were still buried under the rubble. The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion, as black clouds of smoke rose above Gaza. (AP Photo/APTN)
Samera Baalusha (34) carries her surving child Mohamad (15 months) while she waits to see the body of her daughter Jawaher Baalusha (aged 4) during the funeral held for her and four of her sisters who were killed in an Israeli missile strike, on December 29, 2008 in the Jebaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip. Jawher Baalusha and four of her sisters were killed during an Israeli air raid while they were sleeping together in their bedroom.
You will be martyrs: These were the words spoken by the surviving sister as her five siblings, Jawaher, four, Dina, eight, Samar, 12, Ikram, 15 and Tahrir, 17, lay dying beneath the rubble of their home
Smoke rises above Gaza after another Israeli air strike on a Hamas target, December 29, 2008 along Israel's side of the Gaza border. The Israeli Air Force continued its strike of the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip for a third consecutive day, killing 307 Palestinians in the air raids, as Israel prepared to launch a possible invasion.
A Palestinian man looks at the destruction from his damaged home on December 30, 2008 in Gaza City
Palestinians search for bodies in the rubble of the destroyed house of Hamas senior leader Nizar Rayan after an Israeli missiles strike in the refugee camp of Jabaliya on January 1, 2009 in Gaza
A child arrives at Shifa hospital in Gaza City after an Israeli air strike yesterday
A Palestinian demonstrator holds a burning police hat aloft outside the Israeli Embassy on December 29, 2008 in London, England. Demonstrators gathered at the Israeli embassy in West London for the second day to protest against the Israeli air-strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swaths through the Gaza Strip early Sunday
Palestinians react outside Shifa hospital in Gaza City, after hearing the news that their loved one was killed during the Israeli army operation in Gaza, Sunday Jan. 4, 2009. Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swaths through the Gaza Strip Sunday, bisecting the coastal territory and surrounding its biggest city. (AP Photo/Ashraf Amra)
A Palestinian medic carries a child, injured during the Israeli army operation in Gaza on Sunday Jnauary 4 2009
A Palestinian carries a child into the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, wounded during the Israeli army operation in Gaza, Sunday Jan. 4, 2009.
A wounded Palestinian girl from the E'lawa family arrives at the Al-Shifa hospital on January 5, 2009 in Gaza City, Gaza. Amal E'lawa, 32, was killed with four of her children when an Israeli shell struck their house east of Gaza city. Israel is intensifying its wide-scale ground assault against the Gaza Strip in an effort to put an end to Hamas rocket attacks against the Jewish State
A Palestinian man reacts after bringing his children who were wounded in an Israeli army incursion into hospital in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. Israel seized control of high-rise buildings and attacked houses, mosques and smuggling tunnels as it pressed forward with its offensive against the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers on Monday, even as a stream of European leaders headed for the region to press for a truce. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
An Israeli attack helicopter fires a flare as seen from the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Monday Jan. 5, 2009. Israeli forces pounded Gaza Strip houses, mosques and tunnels Monday from the air, land and sea, killing at least seven children and six other civilians, as they consolidated a bruising offensive against Palestinian militants. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

A high-ranking Israeli officer has acknowledged for the first time that the army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives in order to minimise military casualties during last year's Gaza war.

The officer, who served as a commander during Operation Cast Lead, made it clear that he did not regard the longstanding principle of military conduct known as "means and intentions" – whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon – as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter.

A more junior officer who served at a brigade headquarters during the operation described the new policy – devised in part to avoid the heavy military casualties of the 2006 Lebanon war – as one of "literally zero risk to the soldiers".

The officers' revelations will pile more pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set up an independent inquiry into the war, as demanded in the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, which harshly criticised the conduct of both Israel and Hamas. One of Israel's most prominent human rights lawyers, Michael Sfard, said last night that the senior commander's acknowledgement – if accurate – was "a smoking gun".

Until now, the testimony has been kept out of the public domain. The senior commander told a journalist compiling a lengthy report for Yedhiot Ahronot, Israel's biggest daily newspaper, about the rules of engagement in the three-week military offensive in Gaza. But although the article was completed and ready for publication five months ago, it has still not appeared.

The senior commander told Yedhiot: "Means and intentions is a definition that suits an arrest operation in the Judaea and Samaria [West Bank] area... We need to be very careful because the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] was already burnt in the second Lebanon war from the wrong terminology. The concept of means and intentions is taken from different circumstances. Here [in Cast Lead] we were not talking about another regular counter-terrorist operation. There is a clear difference."

His remarks reinforce testimonies from soldiers who served in the Gaza operation, made to the veterans' group Breaking the Silence and reported exclusively by this newspaper last July. They also appear to cut across the military doctrine – enunciated most recently in public by one of the authors of the IDF's own code of ethics – that it is the duty of soldiers to run risks to themselves in order to preserve civilian lives.

Explaining what he saw as the dilemma for forces operating in areas that were supposedly cleared of civilians, the senior commander said: "Whoever is left in the neighbourhood and wants to action an IED [improvised explosive device] against the soldiers doesn't have to walk with a Kalashnikov or a weapon.

A person like that can walk around like any other civilian; he sees the IDF forces, calls someone who would operate the terrible death explosive and five of our soldiers explode in the air. We could not wait until this IED is activated against us."

Another soldier who worked in one of the brigade's war-room headquarters told The Independent that conduct in Gaza – particularly by aerial forces and in areas where civilians had been urged to leave by leaflets – had "taken the targeted killing idea and turned it on its head". Instead of using intelligence to identify a terrorist, he said, "here you do the opposite: first you take him down, then you look into it."

The Yedhiot newspaper also spoke to a series of soldiers who had served in Operation Cast Lead in sensitive positions. While the soldiers rejected the main finding of the Goldstone Report – that the Israeli military had deliberately "targeted" the civilian population – most asserted that the rules were flexible enough to allow a policy under which, in the words of one soldier "any movement must entail gunfire. No one's supposed to be there." He added that at a meeting with his brigade commander and others it was made clear that "if you see any signs of movement at all you shoot. This is essentially the rules of engagement."

The other soldier in the war-room explained: "This doesn't mean that you need to disrespect the lives of Palestinians but our first priority is the lives of our soldiers. That's not something you're going to compromise on. In all my years in the military, I never heard that."

He added that the majority of casualties were caused in his brigade area by aerial firing, including from unmanned drones. "Most of the guys taken down were taken down by order of headquarters. The number of enemy killed by HQ-operated remote ... compared to enemy killed by soldiers on the ground had absolutely inverted," he said.

Rules of engagement issued to soldiers serving in the West Bank as recently as July 2006 make it clear that shooting towards even an armed person will take place only if there is intelligence that he intends to act against Israeli forces or if he poses an immediate threat to soldiers or others.

In a recent article in New Republic, Moshe Halbertal, a philosophy professor at Hebrew and New York Universities, who was involved in drawing up the IDF's ethical code in 2000 and who is critical of the Goldstone Report, said that efforts to spare civilian life "must include the expectation that soldiers assume some risk to their own lives in order to avoid causing the deaths of civilians". While the choices for commanders were often extremely difficult and while he did not think the expectation was demanded by international law, "it is demanded in Israel's military code and this has always been its tradition".

The Israeli military declined to comment on the latest revelations, and directed all enquiries to already-published material, including a July 2009 foreign ministry document The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects.

That document, which repeats that Israel acted in conformity with international law despite the "acute dilemmas" posed by Hamas's operations within civilian areas, sets out the principles of Operation Cast Lead as follows: "Only military targets shall be attacked; Any attack against civilian objectives shall be prohibited. A 'civilian objective' is any objective which is not a military target." It adds: "In case of doubt, the forces are obliged to regard an object as civilian."

Yedhiot has not commented on why its article has not been published.



Israel in Gaza: The soldier's tale



This experienced soldier, who cannot be named, served in the war room of a brigade during Operation Cast Lead. Here, he recalls an incident he witnessed during last winter's three-week offensive:



"Two [Palestinian] guys are walking down the street. They pass a mosque and you see a gathering of women and children.



"You saw them exiting the house and [they] are not walking together but one behind the other. So you begin to fantasise they are actually ducking close to the wall.



"One [man] began to run at some point, must have heard the chopper. The GSS [secret service] argued that the mere fact that he heard it implicated him, because a normal civilian would not have realised that he was now being hunted.



"Finally he was shot. He was not shot next to the mosque. It's obvious that shots are not taken at a gathering."

Source: Independent

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