Shoot Then Ask, Israeli Soldiers Told
Israeli occupation forces returning for a break from the fighting in the Gaza Strip are revealing ruthless tactics they are being ordered to follow.
"We are treating everything as hostile right now," Alon, an army lieutenant, told the Times on Wednesday, 14 January.
When his unit ventures into any alleyway in the densely-populated Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza, they opened fire without hesitation.
"We were told not to take chances — to shoot rather than ask questions," says Alon, citing his orders.
Since the start of Israel's onslaught, over 1,013 people, nearly half of them civilians, have been killed in countless aerial bombardments and 10 days of heavy fighting.
No less than 315 children and 100 women are among the dead, according to Gaza medics.
Around 4,700 people have been wounded, hundreds critically, in Israel's largest-ever offensive in the heavily-populated coastal territory.
With the borders sealed, there was no place of safety for civilians to flee the fighting, meaning they were forced to live in fear and terror.
Nine Israeli rights groups stressed Wednesday that the Gaza offensive has caused unprecedented suffering to civilian residents who are being subjected to "extreme humanitarian distress."
"The level of harm to the civilian population is unprecedented," they wrote in a joint open letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
They accused the army of "making wanton use of lethal force which has to date caused the deaths of hundreds of uninvolved civilians."
"This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion... of the commission of war crimes."
Lieutenant-Colonel Yehuda said it was standard practice for Israeli troops to enter buildings with bursts of shooting.
"In one case the building started burning but we managed to clear out our men in time."
Even the Israeli soldiers are shocked by the scale of destruction they are leaving behind.
"It doesn’t look like we’ve been there a few weeks — it looks destroyed, demolished, like we were bombing it for years," said Alon.
"You can’t imagine what damage we have done."
Hundreds of homes, government buildings, schools, hospitals and mosques have been razed to the ground in air, sea and ground attacks.
"I’m not a newcomer in the army. Both my brothers served in combat units that saw action in Gaza," Alon told the Times.
"And I can say that this is the most aggressive line that we have ever taken towards fighting the Palestinians.
"As you say in English, the gloves were off."
Israeli soldiers confirmed what their army is vehemently denying; using white phosphor shells in bombing Gaza targets.
"We’ve been using it responsibly…it’s been around the whole time," one soldier told the Times.
The Israeli army on Monday insisted all weapons being used in its Gaza war were within the bounds of international law.
Medics in Gaza say they have treated more than 50 people suffering burns caused by controversial white phosphorus shells, a toxic chemical agent which burns away human flesh to the bone.
Early this week, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using white-phosphorus in bombing the densely-populated Gaza Strip.
Under international law, white phosphorus is banned for use against civilians, but is permitted if used for creating a smokescreen.
Two Norwegians who returned from Gaza on Monday, January 12, also accused Israel of using Gaza as a testing ground for a new extremely nasty type of explosive.
They had seen clear signs, including very brutal amputations without shrapnel injuries, that DIME explosives, a new experimental kind of weapon, were being used in Gaza.
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)