Golani Brigade commander Col. Avi Peled resolutely denied on Wednesday that the IDF had used Palestinians as human shields during Operation Cast Lead, and took aim at the soldier whose damning testimony was published as part of a report by the Breaking the Silence group, saying the accusations were strictly hearsay and that the man had not even been in combat at the time. During the operation, Israel "always guarded our values as both a state and army," Peled said during an interview with Israel Radio. "What is important to say is that this soldier was not in the field at the time," he continued. "He told his commander about a week [during] which he wasn't even in the field. He reported about what he heard happened." Peled added, "I can say that at no point was there any civilian who was used as a human shield. We never sent anybody in ahead of us to any place." According to Peled, "there was one incident where a civilian asked if he could go into his house first so that he could guard whoever was in there and keep us from destroying his house. And therefore he asked to go in first to tell those inside to get out of the house so that they wouldn't be hurt. The commander of the unit personally approved his request." That was the only such incident, Peled said, adding that "nobody pointed a gun at him, and he didn't go in ahead of the soldiers." Defense Minister Ehud Barak also slammed the Breaking the Silence report. "Any criticism of IDF operations should be directed to me, as the Israeli defense minister," Barak said. "Criticism directed at the IDF by one group or another is inappropriate and misdirected," he went on, stressing that "the IDF is one of the most ethical armies in the world and acts according to the highest moral code." The defense minister also noted that the IDF operation had "restored calm to southern communities." The Breaking the Silence report released Wednesday morning included soldier testimonies alleging that the IDF had forced Palestinians to serve as human shields during searches of homes in Gaza, among other charges.