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Israeli soldiers admit they forced Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields, needlessly killed unarmed Gazans and improperly used white phosphorus to burn down buildings in Gaza

July 15, 2009

JERUSALEM — Israeli combat soldiers have acknowledged that they forced Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields, needlessly killed unarmed Gazans and improperly used white phosphorus shells to burn down buildings as part of Israel’s three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.

In filmed testimony and written statements released Wednesday, more than two dozen soldiers told an Israeli army veterans group that military commanders led the fighters into what one described as a “moral Twilight Zone” where almost every Palestinian was seen as a threat.

Soldiers described incidents in which Israeli forces killed an unarmed Palestinian carrying a white cloth, an elderly woman carrying a sack, a Gazan riding a motorcycle and an elderly man with a flashlight, said Breaking the Silence, a group formed by army reservists in 2004.

Two soldiers from the Givati brigade who served in Zeitoun told the story of shooting an unarmed civilian without warning him.

The elderly man was walking with a flashlight toward a building where Israeli forces were taking cover.

The Israeli officer in the house repeatedly ignored requests from other soldiers to fire warning shots as the man approached, the soldiers said. Instead, when he got within 20 yards of the soldiers, the commander ordered snipers to kill the man.

The soldiers later confirmed that the man was unarmed.

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An Israeli sniper killed a Palestinian man in order to mark a “score” with his gun. Soldiers fired at houses out of boredom. A commander expressed satisfaction that Gaza hospitals were full.

“One guy said he just couldn’t finish this operation without killing someone. So he killed someone, apparently some sort of lookout,” one soldier reported. “I can definitely say [the Palestinian] was not armed. I can definitely say the soldier regarded this as some children’s game and was delighted and laughing after this.”

…many commanders from different levels gave soldiers a license to kill and destroy without regard for human life or property.
One soldier reported that a colonel told his battalion before entering Gaza that they would be going into Gaza aggressively and added: “Fortunately the hospitals are full to capacity already, so people are dying more quickly.”

About 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the 22-day battle, including some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians. Israel destroyed more than 3,000 homes and damaged some 20,000 others – in some cases entire neighbourhoods were razed.

“The soldiers were told to do everything, even kill innocent people…”

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