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Soldiers testimonies from last years Gaza conflict paints distrurbing picture

6 May 2015 - A report by Christian Aid Israeli partner organisation Breaking the Silence into last summer’s Gaza conflict paints a disturbing picture of indiscriminate fire by Israeli troops which directly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians.

The report, “This Is How We Fought In Gaza 2014”, made up of a series of video testimonies from more than 60 officers and soldiers who took part in Operation “Protective Edge”, indicates a troubling and drastic change in Israeli Defence Force tactics.

It reveals how one of the IDF’s “guiding values” the “Purity of Arms” principle which mandates that soldiers use the minimum amount of force necessary and “maintain their humanity even in combat”, was ignored.

Many soldiers testified that the orders they received were to shoot to kill every person sighted in the area. Breaking the Silence, an organisation made up of former soldiers, says the rules of engagement were the most permissive it has ever heard.

Christian Aid’s William Bell said this week: “This report reinforces the need for an independent commission of enquiry in order to ensure that those who breach international law are held to account for their actions, whoever they are.”

This Is How We Fought In Gaza 2014 says soldiers were given misleading information, according to which IDF activities were to take place in areas cleared of civilians. In reality, the forces entered areas in which innocent civilians, including entire families, remained.

Throughout the operation, the IDF fired thousands of imprecise artillery shells into residential neighborhoods, carrying out the mass destruction of civilian infrastructure and homes.

According to UNOCHA, 2,205 Palestinians were killed, including at least 1,483 civilians, of whom 512 are children and 283 are women.  Seventy-one Israelis were killed, including 66 soldiers, a security coordinator and four civilians. One foreign national civilian was also killed in Israel.  According to Christian Aid partner Physicians for Human Rights Israel 11,100 Palestinians and 724 Israelis were wounded.

Director of Breaking the Silence, Yuli Novak, said this week.

“From the testimonies given by the officers and soldiers, a troubling picture arises of a policy of indiscriminate fire that led to the deaths of innocent civilians. We learn from the testimonies that there is a broad ethical failure in the IDF’s rules of engagement, and that this failure comes from the top of the chain of command, and is not merely the result of “rotten apples." As officers and soldiers, we know that internal military investigations scapegoat simple soldiers rather than focusing on policy.
“The public must know what missions its sons are being sent to carry out, and according to which norms the IDF acts in its name. We call for the establishment of an investigative committee external to the IDF, which will investigate the policy behind the rules of engagement given during “Protective Edge,” and the norms and values that stand at the base of this policy.’’

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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