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Sunday, November 01, 2009

An Israeli colonel on Capitol Hill

IDF colonel Ben Tzion Gruber, deputy commander of tank division 252, was on Capitol Hill this week refuting the Goldstone report.
In a remarkable sequence filmed by The Associated Press on the ground in Gaza on the Palestinian side, armed Hamas fighters piled into an ambulance with the huge letters “UN” painted on its side as Israeli forces advanced into the street where they had prepared an ambush.

“How many Hamas terrorists will fit into a United Nations ambulance? Count them,” Gruber told an audience on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as he pointed to the fighters and their weapons.

Seven armed fighters piled into the back of the ambulance, some of them carrying bulky antitank weapons.

Shortly after Hamas took over Gaza 2 1/2 years ago, they fired all 500 ambulance drivers and 7,000 teachers in U.N. employ, replacing them with people loyal to them who allowed Hamas to use the ambulances to carry troops and munitions and the schools as rocket launch-sites, Gruber said.

“Wherever we entered a village, Hamas always had ambulances right at the front” carrying troops and munitions,” he said.

Gruber was deputy commander of IDF Division 252. At one point, as his 60-ton Merkava tanks were about to engage in a major offensive operation, his commander called him with an unusual demand.

“Even during the fighting, we were talking all the time to the Palestinian forces,” Gruber explained. “They called us that morning and said, ‘There are two women who are pregnant who need to go to the hospital.’ So I took four of my tanks out of the battle and located two ambulances, and escorted them to the hospital.”

In his report for the United Nations, South African Magistrate Richard Goldstone accused both Hamas and Israel of committing war crimes. But it was the allegation that Israel purposefully targeted civilians that stung Gruber the most.

“During [one] operation, we killed 709 terrorists. How do we know they were terrorists? Because we knew where they came from, what they did. We knew their families. We spent a lot of time identifying them,” Gruber said.

Gruber said Israel acknowledges killing 295 non-combatants “by accident, regrettably,” during the Gaza fighting. Of those, 89 were under the age of 16, and another 50 were women.

“How many women do you think live in Gaza?” Col. Gruber asked. “About 50 percent of the population, no? And there were just 50 women killed? This is killing civilian targets? No way.”

By comparison, during the war in Bosnia 10 civilians were killed for every combatant. “That’s not what happened here,” he said.

About 435 people die every month in Gaza of natural causes. “So some of the names the Palestinians claimed we killed may have been these people.”
Read the whole thing. You should find most of the videos referred to in the article somewhere on my site. The parts of the article cited above are stories I had not heard before.

Mona Charen spoke with Gruber:
Because the United States has not yet descended to that level of moral inversion, I was able to sit down yesterday with Col. Ben Gruber, deputy commander of the armored division of the IDF, and one of the officers who participated in the Gaza campaign. Like 80 percent of the IDF, Gruber is a reservist. In civilian life, he's a computer scientist and father of five.

Soft-spoken and reflective, Gruber tries to think the best of everyone -- even Richard Goldstone. "He could not have read" this report before attaching his name to it, Gruber sighs. Readily acknowledging that mistakes are always made in war, and that those who intentionally transgress deserve punishment, Gruber is dumbfounded that the Goldstone report accuses Israel of "deliberately" targeting civilians.
Charen also gives some specifics about some of the steps Israel took to avoid civilian casualties.
What army has offered 48 hours notice to its enemies of planned operations? Israel did so, dropping 2 million leaflets in advance of army movements. Twenty-four hours before the IDF moved on a suspected terrorist site, the army phoned civilians to warn them to evacuate. There were 100,000 calls. And five minutes before an operation began, the IDF sent out text messages. The calls and messages contained not just warnings, but instructions on which roads were safe to take and which schools or other buildings could be used for shelter. In the midst of the conflict, hundreds of trucks brought food, water, and medical supplies to Gaza.
So much for Goldstone's claims that the warnings that Israel issued were insufficient and did not allow people to escape.
In Rafa, Israel sought to close 225 tunnels (with 800 entrances) used to smuggle arms to Gaza from Egypt. The easiest and safest course for the IDF would have been to level the homes without warning that contained the entrances using air power or tanks. In Gaza City, to avoid civilian casualties, IDF infantrymen went house to house, encountering booby traps along the way and fending off seven attempted kidnappings.

Hamas was so confident that Israel would not knowingly shoot at civilians that they hid behind human shields throughout the short war. It was common, when word came of an impending attack, for Hamas to send children out to play in the streets at that moment. "Will I shoot?" Gruber asks. "I will not." There is video of a terrorist with a rocket launcher slung over his shoulder grabbing a 10-year-old boy by the collar and dragging him across the street to deter Israeli snipers. And it worked. Israel has similar video (from Reuters actually) showing U.N. ambulances ferrying armed men. "Yes," says Gruber with resignation, "the 'ambulances' were always at the front."
Read the whole thing.


At 7:46 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Goldstone simply chose to ignore evidence that showed Hamas committed war crimes. They made up their minds on convicting Israel in advance of the actual inquiry. That's why it didn't bother to talk to Israeli military personnel like Col. Gruber to ascertain the truth. If you're going to accuse someone of war crimes be sure first you have the facts on your side. Goldstone had none - that would stand up in a court of law.


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