Israeli pilots 'deliberately miss' targets
Fliers admit aborting raids on civilian targets as concern grows over the reliability of intelligence
Inigo Gilmore at **source may have undergone military censorship**
Sunday August 6, 2006
At least two Israeli fighter pilots have deliberately missed civilian targets in Lebanon as , The Observer has learnt. Sources say the pilots were worried that targets had been as Hizbollah facilities.
Voices expressing concern over the armed forces' failures are getting louder. One Israeli cabinet minister said last week: 'We gave the army so much money. Why are we getting these results?' Last week saw Hizbollah's guerrilla force, dismissed by senior Israeli military officials as 'ragtag', inflict further casualties on one of the world's most powerful armies in southern Lebanon.
As the bodies pile up, so the Israeli media has begun to turn, . Israel's Defence Minister, Amir Peretz, on a tour of the front lines, was confronted by troubled reserve soldiers who told him they lacked proper equipment and training.
Israel's chief of staff, Major-General Dan Halutz, had vowed to wipe out Hizbollah's missile threat within 10 days. These claims are now being mocked as rockets rain down on Israel's north with ever greater intensity, despite an intense and highly destructive air bombardment.
As one well-connected Israeli expert put it:
As international outrage over civilian deaths grows, the spotlight is increasingly turning on Israeli air operations. The Observer has learnt that .
Yonatan Shapiro, a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot dismissed from reserve duty after signing a 'refusenik' letter in 2004, said he had spoken with According to Shapiro, some pilots justified aborting missions out of 'common sense' and in the context of the Israeli Defence Force's moral code of conduct, which says every effort should be made to avoiding harming civilians.
Shapiro said: 'Some pilots told me they have shot at the side of targets because they're afraid people will be there, and '
He added: 'One pilot told me he was asked to hit a house on a hill, which was supposed to be a place from where Hizbollah was launching Katyusha missiles. But he was afraid civilians were in the house, so he shot next to the house ...
So far none of the pilots has publicly refused to fly missions but some are wobbling, according to Shapiro. He said: 'Their target could be a house firing a cannon at Israel and it could be a house full of children, so it's a real dilemma; it's not black and white. But ... I'm calling on them to refuse, in order save our country from self-destruction.'
Meron Rappoport, a former editor at the Israeli daily Haaretz and military analyst, criticised the air force's methods for selecting targets:
These revelations raise last Sunday that left dozens dead, which continues to arouse international outrage.
Some IDF officials have continued to refer vaguely to Katyushas being launched 'near houses' in the village and to non-specific 'terrorist activity' inside the targeted building.
Human rights groups have attacked the findings as . Amnesty International described the investigation as a '', saying Israeli intelligence must have been aware of the civilians'.
One Israeli commander from a different squadron , although he insisted there would have been no deliberate targeting of civilians. He said he had seen the video of the attack, and admitted: 'Generally they [Hizbollah] are using human shields ... That specific building - I don't know the reason it was chosen as a target.'