JERUSALEM — Israeli soldiers who fought in last winter's Gaza war say Israel's military used Palestinians as human shields, improperly fired incendiary white phosphorous shells over civilian areas and used overwhelming firepower that caused needless deaths and destruction, according to a report released Wednesday.
The accounts of 26 war veterans were collected by Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli army reservists critical of their country's treatment of Palestinians. They described demolishing buildings, vandalizing homes and using more than essential firepower, given the relatively light resistance they encountered. Others said regulations for opening fire were vague, and that soldiers were expected to do whatever was necessary to protect themselves.
The Israeli military rejected the report, saying that since no identifying details were given, it was impossible to verify the accounts. It urged soldiers to register official complaints.
Israel launched the offensive in December after thousands of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants on southern Israel over an eight-year period. More than 1,400 Palestinians, including at least 900 civilians, were killed in the fighting, thousands of homes were destroyed and Gaza's infrastructure was battered, according to Gaza health officials and human rights groups. Israel puts the death toll closer to 1,100 and says most were armed fighters. Thirteen Israelis were killed, including three civilians. Human rights groups accuse both Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, of human rights abuses.
Anti-missile test a success: A homegrown Israeli missile defense system performed well in its first live trial, bringing down a short-range rocket similar to those used by Palestinian and Lebanese militants, an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said Wednesday.
Al-Jazeera shut down: The Palestinian government shut down the West Bank operations of the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera on Wednesday, a day after a guest on the station accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of involvement in the death of Yasser Arafat.