“Gaza deaths dog Israeli military”

[En only]

“”” Reports have surfaced in the Israeli media suggesting that Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under what may have been lax rules of engagement during the Gaza offensive.Quoting Israeli soldiers who fought in the offensive, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Thursday that soldiers had also ransacked and destroyed civilian property.

The soldiers’ testimony, made at a course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon, runs counter to the Israeli army’s claims that troops observed a high level of moral behaviour during the operation.

The testimonies include a description by an infantry squad leader in which he relates an incident where an Israeli sharpshooter shot a Palestinian mother and her two children, Haaretz reported.

If proved, the soldiers’ testimonies could lead to war crimes charges against Israel.

The Israeli army issued a statement in response to the Haaretz article saying it would look into the veracity of the allegations and investigate them if necessary. (…)“The important point to remember is that the Israeli military does not publish its rule of engagement, so it will be very difficult for the public to juxtapose the soldiers’ testimonies with what is actually allowed by the Israeli military, in terms of operations and conduct during the war.”

Mikhael Manekin, from Breaking the Silence, an organisation of veteran Israeli soldiers gathering evidence on the Gaza war, said the testimonies in Haaretz corroborate the group’s findings.

(…)Haaretz quoted one soldier as saying: “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 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 OK, and he should hold his fire and he … he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders,” it said.

The paper said that the squad leader argued with his commander over the rules of engagement, which he said allowed the clearing of houses by shooting without warning residents beforehand.

Israel launched its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in December saying it aimed to stop rocket fire by Hamas into southern Israel.

A ceasefire was declared on January 18 after the offensive left 1,300 Palestinians dead, many of them women and children. Three Israeli civilians and 10 soldiers were killed during the offensive. (…) “”” [Al Jazeera]

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