Israel ‘rewrote the rules to ensure soldiers’ safety’
‘Zero risk’ policy for IDF put Palestinian lives at risk in Gaza, Israeli commander admits
An Israeli military commander who served during Operation Cast Lead - the 22-day bombardment and invasion of Gaza just over a year ago - has admitted that the Israelis adopted a policy of engagement which put Palestinian civilians at considerably greater risk than is normal in war.
Anxious to avoid the heavy military casualties of the 2006 Lebanon war, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) allegedly abandoned the military doctrine that it is the duty of soldiers to run risks to themselves in order to preserve civilian lives. Instead, they adopted a policy of zero risk to themselves.
The IDF also jettisoned a second military doctrine - that of "means and intentions" - according to the unnamed commander. This is the principle that a suspect must be seen to be carrying a weapon and show clear signs of intending to use it before a soldier can open fire.
A more junior Israeli officer, supporting the commander's story, claimed that instead of using intelligence to pick out Hamas fighters among the Palestinian population in Gaza, "Here you do the opposite: first you take him down, then you look into it."
The commander's story, reported in today's Independent, is supported by the casualty figures from Operation Cast Lead. Only 13 IDF soldiers died during the three-week engagement, while the death toll among the Palestinian population of Gaza has been estimated at between 1,100 and 1,400, with as few as 50 of the dead being Hamas fighters according to some reports.
The revelation comes in the same week that Israel admitted that two senior officers involved in Operation Cast Lead had been disciplined for misuse of white phosphorus shells.
There is now increasing pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu, who become prime minister after the Gaza conflict, to bow to UN pressure and set up an independent inquiry into the war. Michael Sfard, a prominent Israeli human rights lawyer, told the Independent that the senior commander's testimony if it can be proved was "a smoking gun".
A mystery is why the commander's testimony has only come to light now. He is said to have told his story to Yedhiot Ahronot, Israel's biggest daily newspaper, for a special report on Operation Cast Lead last year. But though the article was ready for publication five months ago, it has never been published. Yedhiot Ahronot has not explained the delay. ·
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