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Israeli soldiers defy officials over war in G -

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Israeli soldiers defy officials over war in Gaza

Anne Barker reported this story on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 12:27:00

PETER CAVE: A group of Israeli soldiers has contradicted the official army version of its actions
and policies during the recent war in Gaza.

The Israeli Defence Force has long maintained it did everything during the conflict to prevent
civilian deaths or injury.

But 26 regular and reserve soldiers have given testimonies which tell a different story.

Middle East correspondent Anne Barker compiled this report.

ANNE BARKER: They're the Israeli army whistleblowers - 26 soldiers who've spoken out about the
Israeli Defence Force's bombardment of Gaza.

The organisation that's published their testimonies says they show deep concern at the actions of
fellow soldiers in Gaza, and challenge Israel's claim to have the world's most moral army.

This first sergeant says - unlike previous military campaigns - the approach in Gaza was far more
brutal.

(Sound of Israeli soldier speaking)

"This time the idea was not just a campaign," he says, "but actual war, in which gloves are taken
off."

"Considerations we were used to hearing" he says, "like rules of engagement, attempts not to hurt
innocents and the like, were not said this time, on the contrary."

Soldiers spoke of a lack of any real rules of engagement. Some spoke of an almost indiscriminate
policy of shoot to kill - even when there wasn't the slightest threat from the Palestinians.

(Sound of Israeli soldier speaking)

"At any obstacle, any problem" he said, "we open fire and don't ask questions."

Testimonies show Palestinian civilians were killed because they were in the wrong place at the
wrong time - or doing something seen as suspicious. Even holding binoculars or talking on a mobile
phone was justification for being shot.

One man tells of a fellow soldier who shot dead an unarmed man simply because he wanted to kill.
The assumption - said one - was that everyone was a terrorist, so it was legitimate to do as they
pleased.

(Sound of Israeli soldier speaking)

"Usually the commanders, mention the lives of civilians and showing consideration to civilians"
this man says, "here he didn't even mention this, just the brutality, go in there brutally."

There was one eyewitness account of soldiers shooting an old man holding only a torch, who was
spotted walking towards a house where soldiers were based. Usual procedure was to fire a warning
shot if someone came too close.

But when soldiers asked permission to fire, they were told to hold off. Instead, said one soldier,
the commander ordered all snipers onto the roof - and they shot the man dead.

Humanitarian groups estimate about 1400 Palestinians were killed in the 22-day conflict, and that
hundreds were civilians. As soldiers went from house to house, to occupy an area, they say they'd
enter the home firing even if they had no idea who was inside.

If there was resistance or fear of attack, soldiers would use Palestinians as a human shield.

(Sound of Israeli soldier speaking)

"A civilian would be forced to walk in front of a soldier" says this man, "while the soldier places
his gun barrel on the civilian's shoulder."

The Israeli Defence Force has condemned the report as lacking in fact or credibility. An IDF
spokeswoman Avital Leibovich says none of the accounts can be proven or investigated because of
their anonymous nature. And she's questioned whether the men are soldiers at all.

AVITAL LEIBOVICH: I don't know who they are, I have no idea in which way they were questioned. When
you have a report with no fact whatsoever, we cannot do anything with it.

PETER CAVE: Avital Leibovich from the Israeli Defence Force, ending that report from Anne Barker.