Friday, May 08, 2015

From Shai Levy in Mako:

I'm flooded with messages from  IDF soldiers and officers. Not long after "Breaking the Silence" published the testimonies of IDF soldiers who fought in Operation Protective Edge , I was approached by the same soldiers and officers in every way possible: phone, messaging, Whatsapp and even through email. Everyone sent a clear message, "They stuck a knife in our back with a malicious plot", as a tank officer with the rank of lieutenant wrote me. They vehemently deny the evidence disseminated by Breaking the Silence and expose cases that prove their claims, as well as the difficult feelings.

It is important to mention that all interviews in the article were made ​​independently and not through the filter of the army, and not in cooperation with the IDF spokesman.

Lt. Oren (a pseudonym) was a platoon commander in the 7th Brigade during the Gaza war. In one of the testimonies of Breaking the Silence, one argued that, "They just chose [a house] – the tank commander said, “Just pick the farthest one, so it does the most damage.” Revenge of sorts. So we fired at one of the houses. Really you just see a block of houses in front of you, so the distance doesn’t really matter.. "Lt. Oren says he knows the event personally, and even took part in his capacity.

He said, "This is an event about late Levitas (Captain Dimitri Levitas), which is simply not true. I have personally seen his body and we were frazzled. But even then we maintained our military ethics. It is true we did heavy firing, but we fired at the source of fire or suspicious places, all in accordance with the procedure and we followed a very strict identification procedure. Understand what I'm saying: our commander was killed, a friend, and we kept shooting according to appropriate procedures. This nonsense of shooting at the house because we want revenge is just a blatant lie. I can not believe that one of us said anything like that, certainly not someone who was there. "

He said commanders in the field use very precise intelligence information referring to almost any home. They know where the majority of the tunnels are, where there are no civilians is no less important, all shells shot only after a proper procedure they have been practicing for a long time before the operation. "Before and after the operation, we emphasized to the officers and soldiers the importance of accurate shooting, to identify the target of not shoot innocent people. More than that, Lotan brigade commander (Col. Nadav Lotan) still talking about even during every minute of a respite. Even then to the soldiers and commanders, he kept saying, 'Be sure to be careful and accurate so as not to shoot innocent people. "

He also revealed, "I can tell you about the two cases we were able to target what we suspected was a dispatcher, and we desisted for fear of hitting innocent people. One of them turned out to be a dispatcher for sure that hid near civilians."

In a conversation with the then battalion commander, an officer who was then a lieutenant colonel told me that "we had a crazy amount of intelligence. We double checked, and verified the verification," the officer told me. He also said during the waiting time before they would enter the Gaza Strip, "the fighters already studied the importance of accuracy and injury prevention against the innocent." According to him, this is an issue that many officers also emphasized to the soldiers during the fighting.

"Almost all the shooting got my approval and, if not mine then the officer in charge. All of our entrances to areas were made after we announced to them (citizens) with messages from planes, phones and what not. Now give me one example in history, one of the Army in announcing to its enemy where he plans to act and what to do. It is a scene bordering on madness. "

The officer said, "So as not to hurt innocent civilians, we informed them what we're going to do. That's how, by the way, the guys of Hamas could manage their fighting much better. They knew where we worked and where not, and then they could send the their fighters to the right place, you know what I mean?" he asked angrily and assessed that this  conduct cost lives and wounded.

An infantry soldier testified, "In some places they called and told us we should not shoot.They were saying we were permitted to return fire only if we identify the enemy in the eye, and clearly. Conditions were very intense and some of us took it poorly, as if our lives are worth less than the Gazan with AK. But I can say we even understood this. Besides, that's the difference between us and a coward terrorist who fires behind the back of a woman or a child. "

His fury was not really hidden, he added, "then these people come and tell me we fired freely. Bullshit, I bet that they did not speak with a single real fighter in Protective Edge". He also revealed that in one of the skirmishes they did not receive permission to shoot artillery fire, because of the proximity of the source of Hamas's shooting to civilians. He said, "We were under fire and my squad commander ordered artillery support, a conversation I heard with my own ears. Any approval of artillery had to be done twice, ...I remember that under a real source of fire in a specific location. We waited a long time until we have received assistance and it was precise fire from the Air Force. "


Another soldier talked with me as well, a sergeant, reacted to the issue of Hamas lookouts, as mentioned in testimonies of Breaking the Silence, which said the IDF fired there on unarmed women who with phones. [BTS: "They were two young women walking in the orchard. The commander asked to confirm, “What do you see,” and whether they were incriminated or not. It was during daytime, around 11:00 AM, or noon. The lookouts couldn’t see well so the commander sent a drone up to look from above, and the drone implicated them. It saw them with phones, talking, walking. They directed fire there, on those girls, and they were killed. After they were implicated, I had a feeling it was bullshit.]

A paratroop officer told me that Hamas often used women and children to alert their men of where to fired at IDF forces. He says he personally witnessed such a case:"A woman with a child came very close to our position and really you see how she points to our positions . You see how she talks on the phone and after a moment passed, we started taking sniper fire and mortars." He noted you are allowed to shoot such observers but not freely, there are procedures that must be adhered to, and in this case by the time they finished the procedures she was gone.

According to him and other respondents, there were dozens of cases in which women and children were sent with phones to locate the positions of the army, which of course caused terrorist organizations to open fire. It cost the lives of soldiers. "So there were cases where we fired in such circumstances, and it is absolutely legal becaue this is a real threat to life. But there were many cases of doubt where nobody opened fire," said the lieutentant colonel we spoke with.

"I have no problem with people on our side who want to repair the world and be angels",  a paratrooper told us, "but that's not the case. We went to war against a terrorist organization  and specifically those we went to defend, are betraying us. It's really a betrayal. I read the evidence where it seemed like they were describing another war, I was there and that's just not true. What they did is to make our blood worthless, really, and it is unbelievable. "

Oren, an officer in the armored units, said, "We feel this report is very difficult. They made us into war criminals while we, we left to protect them, we were the only ones operating in morality and maintained the purity of arms. This is something that is impressed upon us from the start, not to mention in the command courses, and yet they come against us. I do not believe in protecting these people. I am in favor of investigating properly. I was upset about what was published, some people looted money, it was great that the IDF investigated and stopped them. But to accuse us of systemically acting against civilians, as if we freely fired, it's just a shame and betrayal of Israeli soldiers. "

Another interviewee is Air Force fighter pilot who took part in a Protective edge and Pillar of Defense. He said many attacks were canceled because of proximity to civilians and had difficult personal feelings from the publication of Breaking the Silence. "They claimed that there was active heavy fire as part of the policy. And I ask, what exactly do you expect? That our soldiers would enter into an area that wasn't made safe? And I tell you that this happened in some cases. In the testimonies I read they said fired at houses before entering and turn on heavy fire in neighborhoods, They say it's part of the IDF's destruction policies and I can tell you that it is nonsense. I personally witnessed the military's efforts to evacuate civilians from a place where we attack, I saw a lot of activities that do not reveal how  UAVs are used to confirm that no civilians are there right up to the moment you press the button. "

The pilot indicates that for him, the report of Breaking the Silence "is not intended to fix anything. Apparently it's part of our self-flagellation. They use columns of Gideon Levy, people who were not in war rooms and don't see what we are doing to preserve the purity of weapons. Or they fabricated their evidence, or somebody gave them information from frustration and to take revenge, I do not know. What I do know is that they hurt us, a very deep trauma. I can say that personally these things, these plots are disturbing to me. These things cost us and stay forever, components of a false and cruel blood libel that is part of their DNA.

"Breaking the Silence" responded by saying that nothing in the new testimonies contradicted their claims, and that the case of the shelling of the 7th Brigade in memory of a soldier killed, the claim was examined and it is not the same case referred to by what they published.
The testimony above shows that some of the women and children who are listed as "civilians" killed - even according to the Meir Amit Center - were in fact acting as spotters for terrorists and were legal targets under the laws of armed conflict.

It also shows that, shamefully, the IDF accepts casualties in its own soldiers in order to avoid even the appearance of being too reckless with the lives of its enemies.

That is a real scandal, and one that no NGO would ever get funding to document.

(h/t Yenta)

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