Article published on the 2009-07-15 Latest update 2009-07-18 16:48 TU
In a report released Wednesday, Israeli soldiers say they understood they were to "shoot first and ask questions later" in the Gaza offensive of last December and January. They also said that they used Palestinian civilians as human shields. The testimony comes from 30 unnamed soldiers who belong to the veterans group, "Breaking the Silence".
In the report, the soldiers say that the destruction of the Palestinian territory was “a direct result of Israel Defence Forces’ policy". One soldier spoke of using Palestinians as human shields, “To every house we close in on, we send in the neighbour”.
"This is the first time we've had a really solid body of testimony from Israeli soldiers who participated in these operations," says correspondent Peretz Kidron.
Another soldier said that while "no one said ‘kill innocents’" there was an instruction that "for the army, anyone there is suspect and should be taken down.”
Other soldiers spoke of mass destruction and said that houses were destroyed as part of policy, which sometimes consisted of “taking down" a house simply because it was situated on top of a hill in the Gaza Strip.
The army says that much of the testimony "is based on hearsay and word of mouth.” Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak asked in a statement that all complaints be sent to him, saying that “the Israeli army is the most moral in the world.”
"The Israeli army will conduct another internal inquiry where some general will speak to soldiers and come out with a conclusion that the report is totally unfounded," Kidron told RFI.
The 22-day offensive on Gaza left more that 1,400 Palestinians dead. 13 Israelis died.
In a separate report released on Wednesday a Palestinian human rights group, the Addamer Prisoner Support and Human rights Association, criticised Israel’s treatment of Palestinian female prisoners.
In the report, which is sponsored by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the authors say that pregnant Palestinian women are often shackled on their way to hospitals to give birth.
Pregnant detainees "do not enjoy preferential treatment in terms of diet, living space or transfer to hospitals,” the report says.
The report was based on interviews with 125 Palestinian women who were arrested, detained or imprisoned in Israeli jails between November 2007 and November 2008.
A spokesman for the Israeli prison authorities said he was not away of the report and could not comment.
Meanwhile, British advertising watchdog, The Advertising Standards Authorities, banned an Israeli tourism poster that implied the West Bank and Gaza Strip territories were undisputed parts of Israel. The ad sparked more than 400 complaints.