By Dion Nissenbaum
JERUSALEM — Israeli combat soldiers have acknowledged that they forced Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields, needlessly killed unarmed Gazans and improperly used white phosphorus shells to burn down buildings as part of Israel's three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.
In filmed testimony and written statements released Wednesday, more than two dozen soldiers told an Israeli army veterans' group that military commanders led the fighters into what one described as a "moral Twilight Zone" where almost every Palestinian was seen as a threat.
Soldiers described incidents in which Israeli forces killed an unarmed Palestinian carrying a white cloth, an elderly woman carrying a sack, a Gazan riding a motorcycle, and an elderly man with a flashlight, said Breaking the Silence, a group formed by army reservists in 2004.
Any Palestinian spotted near Israeli troops was considered suspect. A man talking on a cell phone on the roof of his building was viewed as a legitimate target because he could've been telling militants where to find Israeli forces, the group quoted soldiers as saying.
"In urban warfare, everyone is your enemy," said one soldier. "No innocents."
The 110-pages of testimony — along with 16 video clips — of interviews with 26 unnamed Israeli soldiers offers the most comprehensive look inside a military campaign that's become the subject of an unfolding United Nations war crimes investigation.
The Israel Defense Forces dismissed the report.