The Truth Catches Up, Probably Too Late

In the aftermath of Israel’s incursion into Gaza, there was widespread criticism of the conduct of Israeli troops. News outlets in Israel printed accounts of alleged killings of civilians that originated with left-wing activists. Those stories were quickly repeated in the American press, including the New York Times, which reported on March 19:

Now testimony is emerging from within the ranks of soldiers and officers alleging a permissive attitude toward the killing of civilians and reckless destruction of property that is sure to inflame the domestic and international debate about the army’s conduct in Gaza. On Thursday, the military’s chief advocate general ordered an investigation into a soldier’s account of a sniper killing a woman and her two children who walked too close to a designated no-go area by mistake, and another account of a sharpshooter who killed an elderly woman who came within 100 yards of a commandeered house.

When asked why that elderly woman was killed, a squad commander was quoted as saying: “What’s great about Gaza — you see a person on a path, he doesn’t have to be armed, you can simply shoot him. In our case it was an old woman on whom I did not see any weapon when I looked. The order was to take down the person, this woman, the minute you see her. There are always warnings, there is always the saying, ‘Maybe he’s a terrorist.’ What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood.” …

One of the soldiers’ testimonies involved the killing of a family. The soldier said: “We had taken over the house, and the family was released and told to go right. A mother and two children got confused and went left. The sniper on the roof wasn’t told that this was O.K. and that he shouldn’t shoot. You can say he just did what he was told.”

These widely-publicized incidents have now been investigated, and the conclusion is that they didn’t happen. CAMERA has the story:

The brigade commander of the unit linked to alleged “wanton killings” in Gaza launched his own investigation after hearing of the charges, speaking with actual eyewitnesses, all of whom said that the alleged killings did not take place. The original charges, based only on hearsay and rumors, have therefore been refuted and should be retracted.

The brigade commander’s findings were reported in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, in a story titled IDF Investigation Refutes the Testimonies About Gaza Killings. According to the story (translation by CAMERA):

Two central incidents that came up in the testimony, which Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy presented to Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, focus on one infantry brigade. The brigade’s commander today will present to Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the Gaza division, the findings of his personal investigation about the matter which he undertook in the last few days, and after approval, he will present his findings to the head of the Southern Command, Major General Yoav Gallant.

Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander’s investigation cites the sniper: “I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, ‘Why did you shoot at them?’ I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots.”

Officers from the brigade surmise that fighters that stayed in the bottom floor of the Palestinian house thought that he hit them, and from here the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.

The other alleged incident, the killing by a sniper of an elderly woman, also seems not to have taken place:

Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.

It will be interesting to see whether the Times and other newspapers that published the original “testimonies” follow up on this more current, and more reliable, information.

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