Ashkenazi: 'Claims of IDF war crimes unfounded'

IDF chief says "disturbing 'testimonies'" on alleged inappropriate actions in Gaza thoroughly examined.

ashkenazi new 248 88 (photo credit: IDF)
ashkenazi new 248 88
(photo credit: IDF)
Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on Sunday reiterated his utter rejection of statements made by IDF soldiers in February to the effect that the army carried out war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. "We were all, myself included, disturbed by the 'testimonies' attributed to soldiers regarding inappropriate actions and the ostensible intentional harm visited upon the civilian population," Ashkenazi wrote in a special Pessah greeting to reservists. "These testimonies were exhaustively examined and investigated by Military Police and the Military Advocacy and, to my satisfaction, have been proven to be unfounded and lacking in any factual base." The IDF chief was alluding to claims made by graduates of the Rabin Pre-military Academy during a conference held in February, which were later written up and printed in an academy pamphlet. Many Israeli media outlets then seized on the claims, and the allegations went on to make headlines around the world. Ashkenazi added that if, however, "when the investigations are concluded, isolated deviations from this norm will be discovered, and they will be investigated and thoroughly dealt with. The IDF is determined to safeguard its values and ethical and normative image. That is the source of our strength. We will never adopt the norms and values of our enemies and will always remain loyal to the values and heritage of our nation." The army's ethic, he emphasized, "is based on the pairing of strength and justice, the need to brandish a sword in order to deter those who would destroy us and our incessant striving for peace with our neighbors… This ethos has withstood the test of all of the wars we have known and, recently, also Operation Cast Lead. "We went to war with Hamas and other terror organizations after an extensive period of restraint, determined to defend our homes and our citizens and to remove the terror threat to the residents of the South." Ashkenazi's missive did not spare Hamas, who, he said, "have turned their own people into human shields and chose to rain down fire and death from their homes, from inside schools, hospitals and mosques and forced us into an arena steeped with civilian populace. We insisted on focusing our military efforts on terror organizations and their infrastructure, while remaining determined to… take every possible measure in order safeguard the lives of our soldiers and refrain from harming the non-combatant civilian population." Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report