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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Israel forced to open face-saving probe

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:18:04 GMT | PressTV

Israel has been accused of turning Gaza into a testing lab for "extremely nasty" weapons and a devastated slum similar to the Warsaw Ghetto.
The political debacle prompted by the confession of Israeli military personnel about their conduct in Gaza has forced the launch of a probe.

With Israeli armed forces having themselves confessed to the wanton killing of civilians as well as immoral behavior in the Gaza Strip and the issue spilling into politics, the Israeli military has been forced to take action.

Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit on Thursday ordered the Military Police Investigation unit to launch a probe into the testimony of Israeli veterans of the three-week war.

Israeli soldiers have confessed that they knowingly relaxed the rules of engagement and hastily killed Palestinian civilians and destroyed civilian property as they were confident that they had the full protection of echelons in Tel Aviv.

The head of a special military course, Danny Zamir, told the Ha'aretz daily that he was "shocked" by the confessions and relayed the reports to higher authorities because he feared serious ethical lapses among troops.

"Those were very harsh testimonies about unjustified shooting of civilians and destruction of property that conveyed an atmosphere in which one feels entitled to use unrestricted force against Palestinians," Zamir told public radio.

The issue has become intensely political as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has expressed confidence that the Israeli army is the most "moral" one in the world.

"We have the most moral army in the world," Barak told Israel Radio. "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."

Israeli human rights groups have also touched on the issues surrounding Israeli war crimes and criminal conduct.

"Until today, about six weeks since the end of military operations in Gaza, not a single criminal investigation has begun despite hundreds of testimonies which raise suspicion about violations of international law and of war crimes," Yesh Din said in a statement.

Israeli war crimes include but are not limited to the use of deadly white phosphorus shells in densely populated civilian areas in Gaza -- as revealed in an investigation by The Times in January.

While Israel initially denied using the controversial weapon, later mounting evidence forced Israeli officials to admit to having employed the shells.

"If these orders were given as described in the testimonies, then both the issuing of the orders and their implementation are criminal offences. If Israel does not investigate its own offences, other countries will have to," the human rights group added.

Tel Aviv unleashed Operation Cast Lead on the Gaza Strip on December 27. Three weeks of ensuing airstrikes and a ground incursion killed over 1,350 Palestinians and injured nearly 5,450 people. Most of the victims were civilians.

The carnage also inflicted more than $1.6 billion in damages on the Gazan economy.

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