Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

We shot unarmed civilians: Israeli soldiers

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
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
A child arrives at Shifa hospital in Gaza City after an Israeli air strike yesterday
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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
A Palestinian man reacts as he holds a blood stained sheet at the entrance to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Israeli forces shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, setting the compound on fire as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel's devastating offensive against the territory's Hamas rulers. (AP Photo/Thaer Al-Hasani)
A United Nations worker surveys the damage from Israeli bombardment at the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Witnesses and U.N. officials said that Israeli shells struck the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City. The U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed "strong protest and outrage" to Israel over the shelling of the compound. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
A United Nations worker surveys the damage from Israeli bombardment at the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Witnesses and U.N. officials said that Israeli shells struck the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City.The U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed "strong protest and outrage" to Israel over the shelling of the compound. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
A Unitet Nations worker is seen as smoke billows from Israeli bombardment at the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Witnesses and U.N. officials said that Israeli shells struck the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City.The U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed "strong protest and outrage" to Israel over the shelling of the compound. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke rises after an Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip, as seen from the Israeli side of the border between southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, Thursday Jan. 15, 2009. Israeli forces shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, setting the compound on fire as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel's devastating offensive against the territory's Hamas rulers. Ban expressed "outrage" over the incident.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
A United Nations worker surveys the damage from Israeli bombardment at the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Witnesses and U.N. officials said that Israeli shells struck the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City.The U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed "strong protest and outrage" to Israel over the shelling of the compound. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
United Nations workers and Palestinian firefighters work to try and put out a fire and save bags of food aid at the United Nations headquarters after it was hit in Israeli bombardment in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Israeli forces shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, setting the compound on fire as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel's devastating offensive against the territory's Hamas rulers. Ban expressed "outrage" over the incident.(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
United Nations workers and Palestinian firefighters work to try and put out a fire and save bags of food aid at the United Nations headquarters after it was hit in Israeli bombardment in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Israeli forces shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, setting the compound on fire as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel's devastating offensive against the territory's Hamas rulers. Ban expressed "outrage" over the incident.(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinians flee their neighborhood following an Israeli army operation in Gaza city, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Israeli forces shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, setting the compound on fire as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel's devastating offensive against the territory's Hamas rulers. Ban expressed "outrage" over the incident. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Israeli reserve soldiers rejoice as they see others crossing back into Israel from a combat mission in the Gaza Strip, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. Israeli warplanes pounded the homes of Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip and ground troops edged ever closer to the territory's densely-populated urban center Monday but reported casualties were low, an indication that Hamas was largely avoiding pitched battles with the advancing Israelis. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Flares and smoke are seen during an Israeli military operation in downtown Gaza City, early Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
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
A Lebanese student protester, flashes a V sign during a demonstration to protest against the Israel's ground attack on the Gaza Strip, in front of the European Commission, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday Jan. 13, 2009. Israeli ground troops battled Palestinian militants in the streets of a densely populated Gaza City neighborhood early Tuesday, destroying dozens of homes and sending terrified residents running for cover as gunfire and explosions echoed in the distance. (AP Photo / Hussein Malla)
Fares al-Dali drinks tea as he sits on a pile of wood and cartons in a house in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. In the al-Dali family's two-room shack in the Shati refugee camp, 21 people _ half of them relatives who fled the fighting _ take turns sleeping because the family doesn't have enough mattresses. For lack of fuel, they cook on trash fires _ paper and cartons collected in the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians salvage belongings from an apartment building following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, 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/Hatem Moussa)
A Palestinian runs past graffiti reading "the anniversary of the movement of the free" as smoke rises following an explosion caused by Israeli military operations in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 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/Eyad Baba)
Mariam Khalid, 2, holds a Palestinian flag with writing in Arabic reading "An Arab Palestine" as she is held by her mother Nagwa, at a candlelit vigil in a show of mourning and support for those who have died in Gaza, at Talaat Harb square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. Israel's offensive in Gaza has sparked widespread anger across the Middle East, and Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, has come under criticism for only allowing limited openings of its border - a move seen by many as abetting Israel's siege of Gaza's 1.4 million residents. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
A relative leans over the body of Palestinian Islamic jihad militant Muhammed Al-Hour, in his family house during his funeral, in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 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/Khaled Omar)
Israeli army armored vehicles drives towards Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on a combat mission, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. Israeli warplanes pounded the homes of Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip and ground troops edged ever closer to the territory's densely-populated urban center Monday but reported casualties were low, an indication that Hamas was largely avoiding pitched battles with the advancing Israelis.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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)
An Israeli army mortar squad fires a round towards a target in the Gaza Strip, from the Israel side of the border, in southern Israel, Monday Jan. 12, 2009. Israeli warplanes pounded the homes of Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip and ground troops edged ever closer to the territory's densely-populated urban center Monday but reported casualties were low, an indication that Hamas was largely avoiding pitched battles with the advancing Israelis(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, gestures while heading a PLO Executive Committee meeting at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. Israeli ground troops battled Palestinian militants in the streets of a densely populated Gaza City neighborhood early Tuesday, destroying dozens of homes and sending terrified residents running for cover as gunfire and explosions echoed in the distance. (AP Photo / Muhammed Muheisen)
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 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)
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 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)
A Palestinian demonstrator holds a burning police hat aloft outside the Israeli Embassy on December 29, 2008 in London, England
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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 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).
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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 demonstrator dressed as Santa Claus uses a sling-shot to hurl stones at Israeli border police during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah, Friday, Dec. 26, 2008. Israel says the barrier is necessary for security while Palestinians call it a land grab.(AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)

Israel was last night confronting a major challenge over the conduct of its 22-day military offensive in Gaza after testimonies by its own soldiers revealed that troops were allowed and, in some cases, even ordered to shoot unarmed Palestinian civilians.





The testimonies – the first of their kind to emerge from inside the military – are at marked variance with official claims that the military made strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties and tend to corroborate Palestinian accusations that troops used indiscriminate and disproportionate firepower in civilian areas during the operation. In one of the testimonies shedding harsh new light on what the soldiers say were the permissive rules of engagement for Operation Cast Lead, one soldier describes how an officer ordered the shooting of an elderly woman 100 metres from a house commandeered by troops.



Another soldier, describing how a mother and her children were shot dead by a sniper after they turned the wrong way out of a house, says the "atmosphere" among troops was that the lives of Palestinians were "very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers".





A squad leader said: "At the beginning the directive was to enter a house with an armoured vehicle, to break the door down, to start shooting inside and – I call it murder – to shoot at everyone we identify. In the beginning I asked myself how could this make sense? Higher-ups said it is permissible because everyone left in the city [Gaza City] is culpable because they didn't run away."



The accounts, which also describe apparently indiscriminate destruction of property, were given at a post-operation discussion by graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military course at the Oranim Academic College in northern Israel. The transcript of the session in front of the head of the course – details from which were published by the newspaper Haaretz – prompted the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) military advocate general Avichai Mendelblit yesterday to announce a military police investigation into the claims. Haaretz said the airing of the "dirty secrets" would make it more difficult for Israelis to dismiss the claims as Palestinian propaganda. The course principal, Danny Zamir, told the newspaper that after being "shocked" by the testimonies on 13 February he told the IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi he "feared a serious moral failure" in the IDF.



In one account, an infantry squad leader describes how troops released a family who had been held in a room of their house for several days. He 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... The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him. He shot them straight away. I don't think he felt too bad about it, because, 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, the lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers."



A second squad leader, who described the killing of the elderly woman, says he argued with his commander over loose rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, soldiers had complained that "we should kill everyone there [in the centre of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist." The squad leader said: "To write 'death to the Arabs' on 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."



Ehud Barak, Israel's Defence Minister, said: "I say to you that from the chief of staff down to the last soldier, the most moral army in the world stands ready to take orders from the government of Israel. I have no doubt that every incident will be individually examined."



But Israeli human rights organisations, including B'Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, called for an independent investigation and complained that the military police inquiry had only been announced after Haaretz published the story, "three weeks after the relevant materials reached the Chief of the General Staff. This tardiness follows a pattern of failures to investigate suspicions of serious crimes".



Amos Harel, the paper's respected military correspondent who broke the story, wrote that Mr Zamir was sentenced in 1990 for refusing to guard a settlers' ceremony at Joseph's tomb in the West Bank. But he added that a reading of the transcript shows that Mr Zamir "acts out of a deep concern for the spirit of the IDF".



In their own words: Soldiers' stories



Squad leader Aviv



"At the beginning the directive was to enter a house with an armoured vehicle, to break the door down, to start shooting inside and to ascend floor by floor and – I call it murder – to go from floor to floor and to shoot at everyone we identify. In the beginning I asked myself how could this make sense? Higher-ups said it is permissible because everyone left in the city [Gaza City] is culpable because they didn't run away. This frightened me a bit. I tried to influence it as much as possible, despite my low rank, to change it. In the end the directive was to go into a house, switch on loudspeakers and tell them 'you have five minutes to run away and whoever doesn't will be killed'."



Soldier Ram



"There was an order to free the [confined] families. The platoon commander set free the family and told them to turn right. A mother and two children didn't understand and turned left. [Officers] had forgotten to tell the sniper on the roof that they were being set free and that everything was okay and he should hold fire. You can say that he acted as he was supposed to, in accordance with the orders. The sniper saw a woman and children approaching him, past lines that no one was to be allowed to cross. He fired directly at them. I don't know if he fired at their legs but in the end he killed them."

Source The Independent



Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz