Israeli officials criticize human rights group report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli officials criticized a report citing Israeli soldiers who said they perpetrated human rights abuses.

A new booklet released Wednesday by the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence presents the testimony of 54 combat soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead in January in Gaza. The soldiers claimed to have destroyed homes and mosques for no military purpose, used Palestinian civilians as human shields and were urged to shoot first, worry later. The soldiers who offered their accounts did so anonymously.

The report also charges that Israel used the banned substance white phosphorous in Gazan neighborhoods, despite IDF statements to the contrary.

"Any criticism of the IDF from this or that organization is misplaced and misdirected," Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded. "If someone has a criticism, or information or conclusions about IDF actions, they should bring them to me, as minister of defense of the State of Israel, and to the Israeli government that instructed the IDF to restore quiet to the communities in the south," he said. "The IDF is the most moral army in the world and it operates according to the highest ethical code."

The IDF released a statement criticizing Breaking the Silence for giving the military less than 24 hours to review the booklet and for not identifying the soldiers or their units in any way.

"It is clear to the IDF, and from reading parts of the testimonies that were gathered by ‘Breaking the Silence.’ that there were isolated incidences in which unintentional harm was caused to noncombatants as the result of operational errors. These types of error are likely to occur in complex fighting such as that in the Gaza Strip," the IDF statement said.

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