- Two Israeli soldiers have come forward to describe how
they took part in what they say was an officially ordered "revenge"
operation to kill Palestinian police officers among them several
- In graphic testimony, one soldier has confessed that
he "really enjoyed" a chase in which he shot an unarmed Palestinian
in the head who was trying to escape during a series of reprisal raids
ordered the day after the killing of six Israeli soldiers in an ambush
by militant gunmen three years ago.
- In what may be the first inside account of such an operation,
the soldiers from two reconnaissance units say they were among troops ordered
by their commanders to "liquidate" the police officers at a series
of Palestinian West Bank checkpoints even though they were given no evidence
they had been involved in the killing of the Israelis.
- The raids were among a series of ground and air attacks
which, in all, killed 15 Palestinians 12 of them policemen in
and around Nablus and Ramallah 24 hours after the six Israeli soldiers
were killed at a military post in the village of Ein Arik, west of Ramallah,
at the height of the intifada.
- One soldier, who took part in the attack on a Palestinian
post at Deir es Sudan said they had lain in wait after finding the position
empty when they arrived in the middle of the night.
- "The idea was simply to kill them all. Whenever
they arrived, we would kill them, regardless whether [they were]armed or
not. If they were Palestinian policemen, they were to be shot. The order
was given and our six opened fire."
- The soldier, from the Yael Reconnaissance Troop, said
that their [naval] squad commander had told them: "We are going to
kill six Palestinian policemen somewhere, revenging our six they took down".
He added: "On my question 'what did they do?' the answer was there
was a suspicion that the terrorist who killed our six came through that
[Palestinian] checkpoint. Suspicion, but no concrete evidence. But I was
told: 'it doesn't matter; they took six of ours, and we are going to take
six of theirs.'"
- The soldier said that, after hitting and wounding two
of the Palestinians as they tried to run away, the soldiers continued to
fire, as one ran into a corrugated metal shed and another into a cemetery.
After they sprayed the shed with bullets, a gas cylinder in it caught fire.
"We had a killed policeman, another one in this burning inferno, and
a third one, escaping. We ran after him into a graveyard ... stood on the
surrounding wall and shot at him. We killed him too."
- The soldier said that no fire had been returned by the
Palestinians and added: "Later we understood, that not one of them
... was armed." He added that he had inspected the "completely
smashed" body of the man in the graveyard after shooting at it to
"confirm the kill" and that it was of "a guy in his mid-50s
or 60s, very old."
- The accounts were originally given to the "Breaking
the Silence" group of young former soldiers which is critical of methods
used by the army in the occupied territories.
- One of the group's spokesmen, Avichai Sharon, a former
member of the crack Golani Brigade, claimed the operations on 20 February
2002 were ordered "from high" including the Ministry of
Defence and added: "In my eyes, this is a very harsh example
of crossing the moral and human boundaries."
- He said it indicated that "we are not a defence
force any more but a tribe which avenges in blood. As an Israeli, I fear
- He said the soldiers, whose testimony appears in today's
Maariv, had not been named "for legal reasons".
- Describing another attack on the same day at the Beit
Ha Mitbachayim checkpoint on the eastern edge of Nablus in which
fire was returned by Palestinian police the other soldier, from the
Tzanchanim Paratroop Reconnaissance Unit, said that the order to shoot
at Palestinians had given by the unit commander and the brigade commander,
a Brigadier Cochavi, had been present at the time.
- He said the policemen were ones who normally would have
been warned by Israeli liaison officers about any military operations due
to take place in their area.
- The Israeli Defence Forces said last night that checkpoints
attacked on the day in question had included ones where Palestinian police
had "actively assisted ... terrorists" by facilitating their
passage. The IDF had been instructed by the "political echelon"
to change its mode of operation. It had been decided that the IDF would
"hunt down all those involved in terror" including members of
the Palestinian security apparatus until the PA prevented such attacks.
As Israel released 400 Palestinian prisoners yesterday, Dov Weisglass,
senior aide to Ariel Sharon, indicated the dismantlement of illegal settlement
outposts a demand by the US would have to wait until after Gaza
- ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.