Ex-Israeli Troops: Reckless Force in Gaza

An Israeli soldier holds his machine gun as he walks near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Jan. 21, 2009.
AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
The Israeli military used reckless force during the fighting in Gaza earlier this year, resulting in needless deaths and damage, a group of former Israeli soldiers charged in a report Wednesday.

In testimonies collected by the organization Breaking the Silence, formed by Israeli army reservists, soldiers who participated in the Gaza fighting describe demolishing homes for no reason and using firepower beyond what was necessary given the relatively light resistance they encountered. None of the soldiers are identified.

The Israeli military rejected the report in a strongly worded statement, questioning its veracity and accusing the group of "defaming and slandering the IDF and its commanders."

The military "regrets the fact that yet another human rights organization is presenting to Israel and the world a report based on anonymous and general testimonies, without investigating their details or credibility," read the statement.

Breaking the Silence said the Israeli public, which overwhelmingly supported a military operation aimed at halting years of rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli towns, needed to know what soldiers saw during the fighting.

"We believe that the existence of a moral society clearly requires a profound, honest discussion, of which the voice of soldiers on the ground is an inseparable part," the group said in the report.

More than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, were killed during the three-week offensive, according to Gaza health officials and human rights groups. Israel puts the death toll closer to 1,100 and says most were armed fighters.

Thirteen Israelis also were killed, including three civilians who died from rocket fire.