Thursday, 16 July 2009

Soldados Israelitas admitem violações dos direitos humanos em Gaza


Israeli soldiers testify on army's immoral behavior in Gaza war

y Katherine Orwell - 1 of International Middle East Media Center Editorial Group

A group of 29 soldiers, that served in Israel’s recent assault in Gaza, anonymously spoke out about the war crimes they committed in Gaza. Breaking the Silence, a group of ex-soldiers, that has been trying to break the taboo around speaking about the army’s behavior, collected their testimonies and published them in a report on Wednesday.

A man takes a look at his destroyed house in Gaza - Photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi
A man takes a look at his destroyed house in Gaza - Photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

The testimonies reveal the use of "accepted practices," the destruction of hundreds of houses and mosques for no military purpose, the firing of phosphorous gas in the direction of populated areas, the killing of innocent victims with small arms, the destruction of private property, the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, and most of all, a permissive atmosphere in the command structure that enabled soldiers to act without moral restrictions. The testimonies demonstrate that the soldiers were not given directives stating the goal of the operation and, as one soldier testifies, "there was not much said about the issue of innocent civilians."

The soldiers confessed shooting at Palestinian civilians, because of “permissive and vague” rules of engagement. Israeli officials have always stressed that the army had exhausted all the possible means to prevent civilian casualties during the Gaza war, but the testimonies of the soldiers claim the exact opposite.

"We were told soldiers were to be secured by fire-power. The soldiers were made to understand that their lives were the most important, and that there was no way our soldiers would get killed for the sake of leaving civilians the benefit of the doubt," said one soldier in the report.

Many soldiers said that they fought without seeing "the enemy before their eyes." "You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them," one of the soldiers testified that "a 20-year-old kid should not have to do these kinds of things to other people."

The testimonies are in line with Palestinian testimonies and the outcomes of investigations by international human rights groups such as Amnesty International, stating that Israel committed war crimes with its indiscriminate and disproportionate behavior.

A limited UN investigation blamed Israel in six out of nine attacks on UN facilities in Gaza, resulting in casualties among civilians that had sought refuge there. A fact-finding team commissioned by the Arab League stated there was enough evidence to indict Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that "the Israeli political leadership was also responsible for such crimes".

At the same time Israel denies all the allegations and sets every report aside as biased and untrustworthy. A spokesperson of the military says the testimonies constitute “hearsay and word of mouth”, doubting the credibility, since the testimonies were made anonymously. Israel bases its defense on an internal investigation it carried out itself, that came to the conclusion that the army fought lawfully, even though in a few incidents errors did occur.

The testimonies of the soldiers largely state the opposite: Israel’s immoral behavior was not incidental, but systematic.

One testimony refers to a policy that is called “the day after”. The soldier states that this policy meant that whole areas near the borders with Israel would be razied, to leave behind a “sterile” empty area that would make future military operations easier. Under this policy houses were demolished without any justification, other than that they were located in strategic areas.

"The testimonies prove that the immoral way the war was carried out was due to the systems in place and not the individual soldier," said Mikhael Mankin from "Breaking the Silence. “This is an urgent call to Israel's society and leadership to take a sober look at the foolishness of our policies."

1414 Palestinians were killed in the three-week assault on Gaza, of which 1177 or 83 per cent were civilians. The UN states that 50,000 homes, 200 schools, 39 mosques and two churches were damaged or destroyed.

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