On Wednesday July 15, a group of Israeli reservists called Breaking the Silence released a report including anonymous interviews by former Israeli soldiers who said that reckless force had been used during fighting in Gaza earlier this year.
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reacted to the publication of the Breaking the Silence report with a statement saying that the IDF Spokesperson Unit regrets "the fact that yet another human rights organization is presenting to Israel and the world a report based on anonymous and general testimonies, without investigating their details or credibility."
The statement said that the report defamed and slandered the IDF and its commanders without presenting the report to them to permit them to investigate the claims prior to publication.
The Ministerial statement criticized the anonymity of those who testified for the report: " In order to ensure that the claims made in these testimonies are dealt with in an appropriate manner, the organization "Breaking the Silence" should urge those who made these claims to really 'break their silence,' and to present specific complaints to the IDF, and not hide behind general and anonymous statements."
Mikhael Manekin from the Breaking the Silence group and a former Israeli infantryman, wrote:
"The spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces presents a radically different version of the Gaza operation than do these combatants who participated in it. The spokesperson claims that Israel did not use the "neighbor procedure" in Cast Lead -- the practice of forcing Palestinian civilians to open doors and search buildings so as not to endanger Israeli troops, which the Israeli Supreme Court banned in 2004. But a soldier from the Egoz unit said that the military did use human shields in exactly this way in Gaza, with the operational support of the unit commander."
"Most important, the spokesperson claimed that all soldiers received precise rules of engagement when they entered the operation, with an emphasis on avoiding injury to civilians. Many soldiers testified that in their units there was total disregard for civilian safety and a permissiveness they had never encountered in previous operations. "If you are not sure - shoot. If there is doubt then there is no doubt," one combatant said he was told."
Manekin defended the Breaking the Silence report to Radio Netherlands, saying that it presents what happened and questions the accuracy of army targets:
"We have to have a moral compass that says these people are legitimate targets, and those people aren't. That's what armies are for. Otherwise what differentiates us from our enemies, the people who attack our civilians?"
Amnesty International recently released its own report on the Gaza conflict earlier this year, in which it blames both Israeli and Hamas forces for perpetrating war crimes.
The Amnesty International researches criticized the Israeli army for failing to investigate the conduct of its own soldiers, while urging Hamas to revoke its policy of launching rocket attacks on Israeli civilian populations.
Here is a video interview with a former Israeli soldier which Breaking the Silence produced last year:
If you don't feel the written translation corresponds accurately to the audio, please leave your views and corrections in the comments below.
Are you in Israel or Gaza? What do you think of the Breaking the Silence report? Have you served with the Israeli army? What is your reaction to the testimonies? Leave your views in the comments section below