Shamni: Troops know where to draw the line
Central Command Chief Gadi Shamni gives testimony in trial of officer, soldier accused of using violence against Palestinians, says 'There are clear rules of conduct', soldiers 'realized they made mistakes'. Lieutenant Adam Melul, one of the accused, says 'General wants to show beautiful face of IDF, but this is not the case in these operations'
Central Command Chief Major General Gadi Shamni on Thursday said, "There are clear rules of conduct in Judea and Samaria, of what is permitted and what is forbidden, everything is clear. The soldiers know where to draw the red lines."
Testifying at the trial of Lieutenant Adam Melul and Staff Sergeant A. of the Shimshon Battalion, who are accused of using violence against Palestinians during operational activity in Kfar Kadom at the end of 2008, Shamni said the commanders in question "realized they made mistakes".
His words drew criticism from Melul, who said, "The general wants to show the beautiful face of the IDF, but this is not the case in these operations in the territories. There are those that get dirty every day to defend the State's security. I am willing to do that, but I expect to be backed and not thrown to the dogs.
"The regiment commander and the brigade commander were here, they told the whole truth, and now he comes here and tries to fix the situation. The general does not represent the military; he sits in an ivory tower and smears reality. I take responsibility for what I did. A situation was created where I had to give a slap to a Palestinian, I am not ashamed of that.
"It was during activity, no one can understand as well as I do what there was there on the ground. Even if I was wrong, they should have told me, explained it to me, not ruin my life."
During Shamni's testimony, some of the people present claimed he was presenting a "sterile" picture of the IDF's activity. Melul's mother spoke out against Shamni's words, saying her son risked his life for five years in the army, and that his life was also on the line during the incident for which he was arrested.
She said her son must have the support of his commanders, and added, "(Shamni) is detached from the ground. He doesn't know what is going on. His testimony is disgraceful."
'I expect commanders to know where to draw line'Shamni said both the regiment commander and the brigade commander erred in their clarification of the orders, and that they "realized they made mistakes".
Shamni said, "If there is need for an investigation the Palestinian should be brought to a facility to the authorized bodies." Melul's attorney, Shami Cohen asked Shamni about the IDF's conduct in the Palestinian territories.
Shamni said a combat soldier is allowed to apply force in order to carry out his mission if necessary. "Not all arrests go smoothly, there are situations where we even reach a point of shooting. It is obvious also, that if a person or civilian's life is in danger, force can be applied."
However, the general stressed that there are clear rules, and that if there is need to apply force in situations that are not a matter of life or death, there are certain bodies authorized to do so, and they should be used.
During his testimony Shamni also admitted that a junior officer on the field gas the right to apply discretion in any given situation, but must find the right balance between what is permitted and what is forbidden.
"I expect commanders to know where the red lines are and act accordingly, even if they are under pressure," Shamni said.
After leaving the courthouse, the Central Command chief said he values and appreciates the soldiers of the Kfir Brigade, who work day in and day out for the security of the State.