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(photo credit: AP)
Allegations that IDF soldiers deliberately shot and killed Palestinian civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead have been found to be categorically untrue in official army investigations, an IDF source told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the results of the investigations have not yet been officially released to the public. He stressed, however, that the investigations were close to completion.
The investigations examined claims made by graduates of the Rabin Pre-military Academy during a conference held last month, which were later written up and printed in an academy pamphlet. Some Israeli media outlets, including Haaretz, then seized on the claims, and the allegations went on to make headlines around the world.
During the conference, one soldier claimed a marksman opened fire on a mother and two of her children, after a squadron commander told them to walk into a no-entry zone.
"All of the soldiers who were involved in the conference were questioned - not as a punishment - but in order to understand whether they had witnessed these things. From all of the testimonies we collected, we can safely conclude that the soldiers who made the claims did not witness the events they describe," the source said.
"All of it was based on rumors. In the incident of the alleged shooting of the mother and her children, what really happened was that a marksman fired a warning shot to let them know that they were entering a no-entry zone. The shot was not even fired in their general direction," the source said.
"The marksman's commander ran up the stairs of a Palestinian home, got up on the roof, and asked the marksman why he shot at the civilians. The marksman said he did not fire on the civilians. But the soldiers on the first floor of that house heard the commander's question being shouted. And from that point, the rumor began to spread," the source added.
"We can say with absolute certainty that the marksman did not fire on the woman and her children. Later, the company commander spoke with the marksman and his commander. We know with certainty that this incident never took place," he said.
The source said that a second allegation of killing of civilians was also false, though he could not provide further details at this stage.
"We investigate every allegation in order to see whether these incidents took place, and to draw conclusions if necessary," the source stressed.
"Unfortunately, due to competition, sections of the press picked up this story and ran with it. It is a shame the media promoted this sort of spin all over the world," he added. It is unlikely the damage to Israel's image from the allegations can be repaired, irrespective of the results of the investigation, he noted.
"It is a shame that the media allowed Palestinian manipulations to spread," he said.
"Look at the allegation that we killed 48 civilians in a UN school in Gaza. In reality, seven people were killed, and four to five of them were terrorists. The UN apologized, but the damage is done," the source said.