Conduct in Gaza

Our view: Israel's investigation of alleged soldier misconduct is the right course

March 22, 2009

Reports of alleged misconduct by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza war are a sad postscript to the combat mission launched to stop rocket fire by Hamas militants into Israel, which continues today. The expos? of soldier testimonies was published last week in two of Israel's main newspapers. It raises anew questions about Israel's conduct in Gaza and its impact on civilian casualties. Israeli military leaders have launched a probe into the reports. It should spare no one to get to the truth.

That's the best way for the Israeli government to determine whether the reports reflect the improper actions of a few wayward soldiers or widespread callousness prompted by lax rules of engagement, as the soldier testimonies suggest.

The military code of the Israel Defense Forces, the best army in the region, obligates its soldiers to protect human dignity. Throughout the three-week Gaza war that ended in mid-January, Israel's soldiers were criticized for destroying Palestinian homes, shelling places where civilians had taken shelter and denying access to emergency medical teams. Israeli officials defended the army's conduct in its battles with Hamas militants, whose strategy cynically relies on hiding among civilians. They have insisted that Israeli soldiers held to ethical standards and did their best to spare civilians harm. About 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the fighting.

War is a brutal affair. Many Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan know this firsthand. But it's in the worst of times that a soldier must live up to a code of moral conduct or face military justice.

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