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We killed police for revenge, Israeli soldiers confess


By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
The Independent
3 June 2005

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=
643659

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 unarmed men.

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 this.`

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 disengagement.
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