Scathing response to IDF decision from Haaretz's Amos Harel

Amos Harel, the military correspondent of Haaretz who broke the story about what IDF soldiers said in a post-war group discussion at the Oranim military academy near Haifa, wrote a scathing response to the IDF announcement that it had finished its investigation and determined that the soldiers’ accounts were based on “rumors” and “hearsay” – and were “purposely exaggerated and made extreme, in order to make a point with the participants of the conference”.

Please note that the IDF soldiers involved did not speak to the media.

Interestingly, the IDF statement yesterday also said that  — apparently during the IDF investigation .. “the participants at the Rabin Center said that they had based their claims relating to the use of phosphorous munitions on what they had heard in the media and not on their personal knowledge”.

From Sic Semper Tyrannis - 29 or 30 March 2009

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Round One: the IDF says it is closing its investigation into "permissive rules of engagement" in Gaza

The IDF announced this evening that it was closing its short-lived investigation into reports that soldiers described “permissive rules of engagement” that led to — among other things — Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed civilians during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

This investigation was, apparently, focused pnly on remarks by Israeli soldiers in a post-Gaza-war debriefing at the Oranim military academy near Haifa. A transcript of their remarks was submitted to the military, then published in a military journal by the Dany Zamir, director of a program at the military academy, before it was somehow brought to the attention of Amos Harel, military correspondent of Haaretz, who published the accounts ten days ago.

Two other Israeli media also published reports on the soldiers’ stories, while the Jerusalem Post published articles challenging the soldiers’ stories. There has been a raging debate in Israeli society ever since.
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IDF "unmanned bulldozers" operated in Gaza war

The Jerusalem Post’s well-informed military correspondent Yaakov Katz wrote in an article published early today that the IDF has an “unmanned version of the D9 bulldozer – called ‘Black Thunder‘ – [which] was developed several years ago by the Engineering Corps and … only recently declassified”.

These are large, very large machines, that apparently were lumbering around the densely-populated Gaza strip while being operated by remote control.

[See our earlier post, “What were 100 bulldozers going to do there?, here.]

This new “unmanned bulldozer” worked so well during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead — the ground offensive started on 3 January, and continued until the cease-fire on 18 January — that, Katz wrote in the JPost today, “The IDF Ground Forces Command plans to double the number of unmanned D9 armored bulldozers in the Engineering Corps arsenal after the vehicle provided exceptional results during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in January … ‘
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US and UK – is there any movement on the use of torture?

Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and a human rights activist, has written on his blog that the British Foreign Office has admitted using intelligence obtained via torture: “This is the most important blog post I have ever made. I would be grateful if you could do everything in your power to disseminate a link to anyone you know who has the remotest interest in human rights – or should have. This blog will be silent for a few days now. Tucked away at Page 15 of its annual Human Rights report, the FCO has finally made a public admission of its use of intelligence from torture. Despite the Orwellian doublespeak about ‘unreserved condemnation of torture’, this is the clearest statement the government has ever made that it, as a policy, employs intelligence from torture…
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"What were 100 bulldozers going to do there?" – Yet IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, who is in overall charge of investigating conduct of war in Gaza, announced that he does not believe there was misconduct

Haaretz’s military correspondent Amos Harel has just published another article supporting claims of grave misconduct during the IDF Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

He wrote, in the article published on Friday, that “GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant’s meticulous planning for Operation Cast Lead was mapped out to the last detail … [But] … The General Staff expected that Israelis would have trouble accepting heavy Israel Defense Forces losses. The army chose to overcome this problem with an aggressive plan that included overwhelming firepower. The forces, it was decided, would advance into the urban areas behind a ‘rolling curtain’ of aerial and artillery fire, backed up by intelligence from unmanned aircraft and the Shin Bet. The lives of our soldiers take precedence, the commanders were told in briefings. Before the operation, Galant and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi painted a bleak picture for the cabinet ministers. ‘Unlike in Lebanon, the civilians in Gaza won’t have many places to escape to’, Ashkenazi warned. ‘When an armored force enters the city, shells will fly, because we’ll have to protect our people’. The politicians promised backing. Two weeks before the incursion, a member of the General Staff, talking to a journalist, predicted that 600-800 Palestinians civilians would be killed in an Israeli operation.

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HRW suspects Israeli military used white phosphorous in Gaza not as a smokescreen but as an incendiary weapon

Israel’s recent use of white phosphorus bombs in densely populated areas of Gaza violated the rules of war, according to a leading human rights organization. Human Rights Watch said that even before its researchers were able to enter Gaza, they had watched from adjacent perimeter areas in Israel as white phosphorus bombs exploded in the air over densely-packed residential areas in the Gaza Strip.

Human Rights Watch said that Israeli troops began using white phosphorus in Gaza after the ground phase of the military offensive started on January 3rd, a week into Operation Cast Lead, and continued until the cease-fire two weeks later.

The IDF was well aware of the effects of white phosphorus and the extreme danger it poses to civilians, Human Rights Watch said. According to the human rights group, if the IDF actually intended to use white phosphorus for its obscurant effect, it could only have done so lawfully in open areas, and not in downtown Gaza City, or downtown Beit Lahiya.

HRW said that far safer alternatives are available – such as the very effective smoke artillery manufactured in Israel, that does not burn.

Ground-exploded white phosphorous creates a much thicker and more effective smokescreen than shells detonated in the air, the group said, but that was not the tactic Israeli troops employed.

Moreover, in the cases documented by Human Rights Watch, there was no military necessity to create smokescreens because there were no Israeli troops on the ground in those areas at the time.
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More on The Wall – a Barrier

In his recent report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Special Rapporteur Richard Falk wrote this — but why does he call it the “barrier”/”Barrier”?:

“Israel has largely ignored the Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004 of the International Court of Justice regarding the barrier… Continue reading “More on The Wall – a Barrier”

HRW details White Phosphorus attacks by IDF on UNRWA compound and UNRWA school

The most striking detail about the IDF attack with white phosphorus on the main UNRWA compound in Gaza City — the day UNSG BAN Ki-Moon arrived in the region — was how long it lasted.

Some three hours.

During which time, UNRWA staff and officials were making frantic phone calls to various contacts in the IDF, who were unable to quickly bring the attack to a halt.

A former U.S. Army officer now working with UNRWA told the HRW researchers, as they recounted in their just-released report, “Rain of Fire”, on the Israeli use of white phosphorus during the December-January Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, that the IDF seemed “to be ‘walking’ the artillery fire across the area – firing shells along an arc at evenly spaced intervals”.
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White Phosphorus was only one part of the horror of war during 22 days in Gaza

The White Phosphorus attacks recounted by Human Rights Watch in its just-released report, “Rain of Fire”, were only part of horrors of war inflicted upon civilians in Gaza during the 22-day IDF Operation Cast Lead, 27 December to 18 January.

Khuza’a village, east of Khan Younis, and not far from the Israeli border, was attacked intermittently for over three days by White Phosphorus, from 10 to 13 January. Then, on the 13th of January, as their homes were collapsing above their heads, women and children who were waving white flags while trying to flee were shot dead by Israeli soldiers.

The HRW report said that “the village of Khuza’a is one of the closest Palestinian residential areas to Israel, in sight of IDF watchtowers. Open fields separate it from the armistice line. In a series of ground incursions between January 11 and 13, Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters, apparently killing three of them. At the same time, local officials said, 16 civilians died and dozens more were wounded, many by smoke inhalation from the extensive use of white phosphorus…
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Trying to save his family who were burning to death in a car set aflame by White Phosphorus

According to the HRW report released today on the IDF’s use of White Phosphorus during its 22-day Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, attacks by White Phosphorus began in different areas of the Gaza Strip after the IDF began its ground offensive on 3 January.

One of the worst accounts is this one, about a young man who was terribly wounded while trying to save his family who were burning to death in a car hit by White Phosphorus:
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