The IDF did not behave morally during Operation Cast Lead, soldiers who had participated in the operation said during a post-op conference at the military academy at Oranim. The conference protocol was published Thursday.
One NCO told of the experiences that bothered him during the operation. "Prior to going into a crowded area… we had a meeting about the rules of engagement and opening fire within a city, because as you know we fired a lot of rounds and killed a lot of people in order for us not to be injured or shot at."
"When we entered a house, we were supposed to bust down the door and start shooting inside and just go up story by story… I call that murder. Each story, if we identify a person, we shoot them. I asked myself – how is this reasonable?"
The NCO also related a story about an old woman who was crossing a main route who was shot by the soldiers. "I don't know whether she was suspicious, not suspicious, I don't know her story… I do know that my officer sent people to the roof in order to take her out… It was cold-blooded murder."
Another NCO told of an incident in which a family was killed. "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 okay and that he shouldn't shoot… you can say he just did what he was told… he was told not to let anyone approach the left flank and he shot at them."
"I don't know whether he first shot at their feet or not (per IDF engagement instructions), but he killed them," the NCO said.
'Unacceptable behavior'When asked during the conference whether he had spoken to the sniper afterwards, he said no. "I think he felt horrible about it, that he had done what he was told. I know that most people I've talked to feel that the atmosphere in Gaza was that the lives of Palestinians were far less important than the live of our soldiers."
"We expected to hold a discussion about the war, in which we would hear about the personal experiences and lessons of the soldiers, but we did not expect the testimonies that we heard," Academy Head Danny Mazir told Ynet. "We were in total shock."
Mazor informed IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi of the experience. "It's definitely not easy for an institution like the IDF to hear things like this and the officers I spoke with were very surprised. Up until now, post-op investigations had not demonstrated such violations of ethics," he said.
The IDF Spokesman's Unit reported that, pursuant to Mazor's communication, "a meeting was immediately set up with Chief Education Officer Brig. General Eli Shirmeister."
"He explained that the IDF was currently in the middle of thorough investigations of these issues. The IDF has no previous information about these incidents and will investigate their accuracy. The head of the military academy was asked to transfer any additional information he receives to the IDF so that it could checked thoroughly," they said in a statement.
Later Thursday, Military Judge Advocate General Brigadier-General Avi announced he would launch a formal inquiry into the allegations. According to Mandelblit, the publications "paint a picture of unacceptable behavior, if true."
Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) added that the testimonials regarding Operation Cast Lead were proof of war crimes.
"These are shocking testimonials. A State commission of inquiry must be formed and criminal proceedings must be taken against those responsible for the murders," he said.
Sharon Roffe-Ofir and Efrat Weiss contributed to this report