IDF Officer: Testimonies of Lax Moral Standards in Gaza Are 'Exaggerated'

Maj. Gen. Yair Golan defends army's adherence to morality, says any deviations will not be tolerated.

A top Israel Defense Forces commander on Sunday defended the army's adherence to wartime moral standards, despite contrary testimonies describing lax rules of engagement in the Gaza Strip released last week by troops who served in Operation Cast Lead.

"The reports were exaggerated and any deviations from the IDF's moral standards will be dealt with," GOC Home Front Command Major General Yair Golan said during a panel discussion at the Institute of National Defense Research in Tel-Aviv.

Haaretz last week published an expose revealing soldiers' accounts of ethical violations in the Gaza offensive earlier this year.

Less than a month after the end of Operation Cast Lead, dozens of graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory program convened at Oranim Academic College in Tivon to testify to their experiences during the war.

Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, according to the testimonies, which were given by combat pilots and infantry soldiers.

Their testimonies run counter to the IDF's claims that Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation.

Similar testimonies emerged over the weekend. Channel 10 broadcast a documentary on Saturday that included a security briefing by a company commander on the eve of the Gaza invasion.

"We're going to war," the documentary showed a commander telling his soldiers. "We're not doing routine security work or anything like that. I want aggressiveness - if there's someone suspicious on the upper floor of a house, we'll shell it. If we have suspicions about a house, we'll take it down."

"There will be no hesitation," the commander continued. "If it's us or them, it'll be them. If someone approaches us unarmed, shoot in the air. If he keeps going, that man is dead. Nobody will deliberate - let the mistakes be over their lives, not ours."

A number of officers told Haaretz over the weekend that the testimonies did not surprise them, as "anyone with eyes in his head knows that these things happened during the fighting in Gaza."

The soldiers who testified about misconduct "placed a very unpleasant mirror before us," said one officer.