ISRAELI forces slaughtered Palestinians, including women and children, during their Gaza onslaught, under rules of engagement drawn up by the military and approved by the political establishment that permitted them to do so.
Soldiers’ testimonies made at the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military academy have appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz detailing the outrages.
One human rights group, Yesh Din, has called for an outside war crimes probe and tribunal to be set up.
The soldiers’ testimony, concerning the killing and the rules of engagement, run counter to the Israeli military’s own claims that it went to great lengths to protect civilians during the war.
According to the Palestinian centre for human rights, more than two-thirds of the 1,434 Palestinians killed during the offensive were civilians, many of them women and children.
One soldier’s testimony describes an incident in which an Israeli sniper shot and killed a Palestinian woman and her two children after they were told it was safe to leave their home.
‘There was a house with a family inside … We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it and a few days after that there was an order to release the family.
‘They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof,’ the soldier 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, and he should hold his fire … he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders.’
One squad leader said he argued with his commander over the rules of engagement, Ha’aretz reported.
After the orders were changed, the squad leader’s soldiers complained that ‘we should kill everyone there (in the centre of Gaza). Everyone there is a terrorist.’
The journal of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military academy also cited the case of an elderly Palestinian woman killed as she was walking 100 yards from her home.
Soldiers also spoke of civilians being abused, acts of vandalism and destruction of homes.
‘Those were very harsh testimonies about unjustified shooting of civilians and destruction of property that conveyed an atmosphere in which one feels entitled to use unrestricted force against Palestinians,’ academy director Dany Zamir told public radio.
The Yesh Din human rights group called for an independent inquiry.
‘Until today, about six weeks since the end of military operations in Gaza, not a single criminal investigation has begun despite hundreds of testimonies which raise suspicion about violations of international law and of war crimes,’ Yesh Din said in a statement.
‘The testimonies that were published today in the Israeli media cast a shadow not just over the specific soldiers who carried out these deeds but also on high-ranking officials who gave the command to open fire.
‘If these orders were given as described in the testimonies, then both the issuing of the orders and their implementation are criminal offences. If Israel does not investigate its own offences, other countries will have to,’ it said.
Public radio’s legal commentator Moshe Hanegbi said the investigation should not be conducted by the military ‘as it would not be credible at a time when Israel is accused of war crimes, and officers could be tried abroad.’
Israel’s war on Gaza killed 1,434 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and wounded 5,450 others.
Among the dead were 437 children, 110 women, 123 elderly men, 14 medics and four journalists.
The wounded include 1,890 children and 200 people in serious condition.