Aug 3, 2009
Several Israeli soldiers testified about the violence of the Israeli army’s invasion into the Gaza Strip last December and January. This military offensive, which was supposed to end Hamas’ shooting rockets into Israel, resulted in 1,400 dead and 5,000 wounded Palestinians, with six Israeli soldiers and three civilians killed.
Several human rights organizations have already accused the Israeli army of deliberately killing civilians during the offensive in Gaza. These accusations are based on testimony taken from Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
But this time, additional accusations came from the testimony of Israeli soldiers who fought on the ground. The reservist organization Shrovim Shtika (Break the Silence) published the testimony of Israeli soldiers denouncing “the accepted practices” of the Israeli army.
“We had the order to shoot first and think later,” a soldier recounts. Another depicts the orders received from his superior: “Not a hair of my soldiers should fall and I don’t want one of my soldiers to take risks by hesitating. If you aren’t sure, shoot!” The disastrous military operation in Lebanon in 2006, to inflict a defeat on Hezbollah, had proved a bloody failure. It resulted, for the first time in a long time, in a number of Israeli dead and wounded. Since then, the priority of the Israeli Army has been to minimize its losses, and thereby ensure it has the support of the Israeli population.
The violent methods used during the war against Gaza from last December 27 to January 18, cynically baptized “Operation Cast Lead,” meant effectively there was no combat. The men of Hamas hid or fled, leaving the civilian population caught in the trap, with nowhere to go. “The general impression was that we were here to kill and that bothered no one,” relates another soldier. Entire neighborhoods were dynamited, farming areas completely ravaged. Entire streets in Gaza were demolished to reduce the risk of explosive traps and shooters lying in wait. “There remained nothing standing in our zone. It was like the films of World War I where nothing remained,” affirmed a soldier.
The soldiers also denounced the use of white phosphorus in the streets of Gaza. White phosphorus sticks to human skin while burning its victims. In addition, Israeli soldiers forced Palestinian civilians to act as human shields to penetrate into buildings – with a gun at their backs – to see if they were booby trapped. These same methods were widely used in operation “Defensive Shield” against the West Bank in 2002, which led to the massacres in the refugee camps of Jenin.
Under the pretext of ending Hamas rocket attacks, the Israeli army knowingly and deliberately massacred the Palestinian population of Gaza, hoping to crush any impulse to revolt. It seems the Israelis succeeded in this goal for the moment. But the conditions of life, already very difficult before the war offensive, have become so atrocious that the population, pushed to the wall, will have no choice but to rise up again, to try to get out of the stranglehold oppressing it, especially under the harsh blockade that Israel continues to impose on the Gaza Strip.
This testimony by soldiers about what their army has done, although given anonymously, may open the eyes of the Israeli population, which is also held prisoner by the warmongering arguments of its government.