Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem
A group of Israeli soldiers who fought in the recent war in Gaza have testified that the military allowed them to use reckless force.
The 26 soldiers published their anonymous accounts in a booklet compiled by Breaking the Silence, an Israeli soldiers’ organisation.
They describe the Israeli army’s use of human shields and deliberate targeting of civilian structures.
The soldiers’ descriptions confirm information first published byThe Times during the offensive that soldiers were given orders to shoot first and ask questions later.
In one typical account, a soldier said that in pre-invasion briefings his officers said it was better to hit an innocent than hesitate to attack an enemy. “If you’re not sure, kill. Fire power was insane.”
“You felt like a child playing around with a magnifying glass, burning up ants,” another Israeli soldier said. “A 20-year-old kid should not be doing such things to people.”
Several Israeli soldiers adescribed the use of white phosphorus in Gaza. One soldier described walking on the beach in Gaza and discovering an area covered in glazed sand from a white phosphorous bomb.
He said it was upsetting because “in training you learn that white phosphorus is not used, and you’re taught that it’s not humane”.
A soldier from the Golani brigade said: “Sometimes a force would enter while placing rifle barrels on a civilian’s shoulder, advancing into a house and using him as a human shield.”
Another soldier related an incident in which he was ordered not to fire warning shots at a man approaching their position from some dozen yards away.
When they asked their commander why he told them not to fire warning shots, he said: “It’s night time and this is a terrorist.”
Israel has blamed Palestinian militant groups for the high death toll in Gaza, stating that they hid explosives in schools, hospitals, and other civilian structures.
They said that Palestinian militants often dressed as civilians and attempted to get close to forces before launching an attack.
More than 1,400 Palestinians died in the three-week offensive. Gaza health officials say 900 of those killed were civilians but Israel says that figure is closer to 300.
Thirteen Israelis were killed, including three civilians who died from rocket fire.
A military spokesman accused the group of “defaming and slandering the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] and its commanders” but said that he would investigate formal complaints of military misconduct.