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In a front page story, the newspaper reported on Tuesday that it had compiled evidence of alleged war crimes “involving the use of Palestinian children as human shields and the targeting of medics and hospitals” and gathered “testimony on missile attacks by Israeli drones against clearly distinguishable civilian targets”.
Among those whose testimony was recorded and also published on The Guardian’s website are three teenage brothers, who describe how they were told to kneel in front of tanks to put Hamas off firing in that direction. According to Al’a al-Attar, they were also sent into homes ahead of the soldiers “so if any fighters shot at them the bullets would hit us, not them”.
The latest allegations follow a front page story in The Independent last week quoting Israeli soldiers talking about specific incidents during the recent conflict, which had already cast a shadow over the army’s conduct and prompted the IDF to launch an investigation. But even before the publication of this week’s Guardian story, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi had insisted that he doesn’t believe that civilians were hurt intentionally and described the country’s army as “one of the world’s most moral armies”.
Zionist Federation co-vice president Jonathan Hoffman said: “The Guardian is pathologically biased against Israel and therefore one’s predisposition is that this latest story should not be taken at face value.
“It said there was a massacre at Jenin and that Israel is high in an international league table for its murder of journalists. Now it claims the army magazine (Be’machaneh) has photos of three Palestinian boys used by the IDF as human shields. I have no doubt that the story will be proved nonsense – like the other two stories. The Guardian should explain why editorial integrity flies out of the window where Israel is concerned. But of course it won’t.”
Simon Plosker, managing editor of HonestReporting UK, said: “The Guardian has attempted to construct a case to smear Israel and the entire IDF based solely upon Palestinian eyewitnesses and other less than credible sources. This is yet another example of the lengths to which The Guardian will go to in order to promote the false image of a uniquely evil IDF and its soldiers, the vast majority of whom behave in an exemplary and ethical manner.”
Speaking on Monday about the publication of testimonies regarding the alleged hitting of civilians, Ashkenazi said: “I don’t believe that IDF soldiers hurt civilians intentionally, in cold-blood. The IDF is one of the world’s most moral armies, and if there are isolated incidents, they will be investigated and dealt with.”
He added: “We operated in a very complex atmosphere that is also inhabited by civilians, and we took every possible measure to minimise harm to civilians….But in an environment like this, some harm to civilians is unavoidable.”
But it wasn’t just in the media where Israel faced criticism this week over its recent operation in Gaza. In a report presented at the UN Human Rights Council – condemned by Israel as a “further example of the very one-sided, unbalanced and unfair attitude” – UN special rapporteur Richard Falk said there was a need to assess whether Israeli forces could differentiate between military and civilian in Gaza to determine if the war was legal. “If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law,” Falk wrote. “On the basis of the preliminary evidence available, there is reason to reach this conclusion.”
Criticism of Falk’s words came only months after he was expelled from Israel amid accusations from Israel of bias, a charge echoed by the Americans in the wake of this week’s report.Guardian & UN Allege War Crimes by Justin Cohen