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L'avvocato Michael Sfard descrive le testimonianze dei soldati israeliani sull'Operazione Piombo Fuso a Gaza, raccolte da Breaking the Silence (Il parere legale di Sfard fa parte del materiale fornito dall'associazione pacifista israeliana)

Michael Sfard

Mercoledi' 15 Luglio 2009
The War in Gaza

What will the IDF soldiers who served in Operation Cast Lead tell their children? Will the “battles” they took part in join the IDF ethos of bravery? And is it really plausible to call the artillery bombardment, the tank shelling and firing from battle helicopters and airplanes “battles”? Will the Israelis who tell about the war in Gaza be proud of their part in this operation that forever changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza?

The fifty-four testimonies that are now before you were collected during the weeks following the operation by members of the organization Breaking the Silence. All of the testimonies come from soldiers and officers who participated in some capacity in one of the harshest attacks that the State of Israel has ever inflicted on an urban area densely populated with civilians. These are fresh testimonies from a bleeding wound, from the ground zero of Cast Lead. Some of them are still based in the “justness of the war,” in “its legitimacy,” and in the evil of the enemy. Most are sober, regretful, shocked at the thing in which they had taken part.

Testimony after testimony, layer by layer, the nature of the operation in which the IDF combatants participated is revealed: rules of engagement that did not distinguish between combatants and civilians among the enemy; the use of combat methods that did not take into account that the combat took place in a civilian area where children, women and the elderly would be expected to be; the use of inexact weapons, with an injury radius inappropriate for a crowded civilian area and which do not allow for limiting damage to operational military targets; the vast devastation, the systematic destruction, its incredible scale, that nearly all the witnesses speak about – the destruction of houses, apartments, public buildings and property, in many cases for no apparent legitimate military need.

The attack on Gaza, as these testimonies describe, was our war of “no casualties.” IDF’s combatants went out to this war with rules of engagement ranging from no reference to the possible presence of civilians in the area, through “shoot at anyone who is ‘not supposed to be’ in the area,” to “there is no consideration for civilians.” Many of the witnesses say that the rules of engagement regarding civilians were not clear to them. All the witnesses agreed that they received a particular order repeatedly, in a way that did not leave much room for doubt: to do everything, everything, so that they – the IDF soldiers – would not be harmed. The soldiers tell in their testimonies how this unwritten message, which came from brigade, battalion, and company commanders in morale-building conversations before entering Gaza, translated into zero patience for the life of enemy civilians. It led to an old man shot to death because he walked with a flashlight in a place where he was not expected to be, but was; to entering civilian homes with live fire, which in the instance described led to the killing of an innocent civilian who hid himself in his house with his family; to the use of missiles and sometimes even tank shells before entering houses; to the killing of a motorcyclist that to this day no one knows whether he was an innocent civilian; to the use of white phosphorus in an area that children would return to within a few days; and to vast destruction – to wiping out a neighborhood because shots were fired at the army from four houses there, to “taking down” a house because it blocks the view, to shelling a building “to wake up the company.”

A significant portion of these incidents, described sometimes dryly, sometimes with such emotion that the interview itself is nearly a therapeutic process, but always – it seems – straightforwardly, have weighty legal consequences. The number one principle in international laws of war is the principle of distinction, which states: “Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” From this principle of distinction, the overarching principle of international humanitarian law, derives the prohibition on the use of weapons that cannot distinguish between combatants and civilians (white phosphorus in an urban area, for example), and the use of modes of warfare that do not make the distinction (firing imprecise artillery on a populated civilian area). The laws of warfare also prohibit causing damage to property without military justification. They require the use of cautionary measures to reduce collateral damage to the civilian population and they forbid looting, vandalism and the use of human shields, all of which took place in Gaza, according to the testimonies of the IDF soldiers who spoke with Breaking the Silence.

Violation of these principles is not just an unethical act. Violations of the laws of war are liable to be war crimes. The combatants’ testimonies tiptoe around this, touching and not touching on it. For some, their question marks will dissipate with time; for others they will become exclamation points.

So what will the soldiers and officers of the IDF tell their children about their part in the attack on Gaza?

Collegati al sito di Breaking the silence



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