The Israeli daily Ha'aretz has begun publishing an explosive series of articles based on testimony from Israeli soldiers about the brutal killings and wanton destruction they carried out in Gaza. One article today begins as follows:
During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive.
The soldiers are graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Some of their statements made on Feb. 13 will appear Thursday and Friday in Haaretz. Dozens of graduates of the course who took part in the discussion fought in the Gaza operation.
The speakers included combat pilots and infantry soldiers. Their testimony runs counter to the Israel Defense Forces' claims that Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation. The session's transcript was published this week in the newsletter for the course's graduates.
In reaction to the Ha'aretz articles (be sure to check the paper in the days to come) the Israeli Defense Forces quickly announced that it was "investigating." The paper quotes defense minister Ehud Barak (who was one of the most gung-ho Israeli leaders during the assault on Gaza):
"We have the most moral army in the world," Barak told Israel Radio. "I spent dozens of years in uniform, I know what happened in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and I say to you that from the chief of staff down to the last soldier, the most moral army in the world stands ready to take orders from the government of Israel. I have no doubt that every incident will be individually examined."
Update: The scandal over the soldiers' testimony is so serious that even the New York Times has picked up the story.
More background from Ha'aretz. In Friday's edition.
Meanwhile, Israel clamps down harder on Gaza. The Israeli NGO Gisha reports on the latest restrictions on movements of goods into the territory.