[Marxism] Israel troops: "We shot like blind people..."

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Aug 19 11:09:27 MDT 2006

Israeli Troops Criticize War Handling
METULLA, Israel, Aug. 18, 2006(AP) Israeli soldiers returning from the war 
in Lebanon say the army was slow to rescue wounded comrades and suffered 
from a lack of supplies so dire that they had to drink water from the 
canteens of dead Hezbollah guerrillas.

"We fought for nothing. We cleared houses that will be reoccupied in no 
time," said Ilia Marshak, a 22-year-old infantryman who spent a week in 

Marshak said his unit was hindered by a lack of information, poor training 
and untested equipment. In one instance, Israeli troops occupying two 
houses inadvertently fired at each other because of poor communication 
between their commanders.

"We almost killed each other,” he said. "We shot like blind people. ... We 
shot sheep and goats."

In a nation mythologized for decisive military victories over Arab foes, 
the stalemate after a 34-day war in Lebanon has surprised many.

The war was widely seen in Israel as a just response to a July 12 
cross-border attack in which Hezbollah gunmen killed three Israeli soldiers 
and captured two. But the wartime solidarity crumbled after Israel agreed 
to pull its army from south Lebanon without crushing Hezbollah or rescuing 
the captured soldiers.

A total of 118 Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting, and the army 
was often caught off guard by a well-trained guerrilla force backed by Iran 
and Syria that used sophisticated weapons and tactics. Soldiers, for 
instance, complained that Hezbollah fighters sometimes disguised themselves 
in Israeli uniforms.

Military experts and commentators have criticized the army for relying too 
heavily on air power and delaying the start of ground action for too long. 
They say the army underestimated Hezbollah, and that Prime Minister Ehud 
Olmert set an unrealistic goal by pledging to destroy the guerrilla group.

This week, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz appointed a former army 
chief to investigate the military's handling of the war.

Some of the harshest criticism has come from reservists, who form the 
backbone of the army. Israeli men do three years of mandatory service 
beginning at age 18, but continue to do reserve duty several weeks a year 
into their 40s.

Israeli newspapers quoted disgruntled reservists as saying they had no 
provisions in Lebanon, were sent into battle with outdated or faulty 
equipment and insufficient supplies, and received little or no training.

“I personally haven't thrown a grenade in 15 years, and I thought I'd get a 
chance to do so before going north,” an unidentified reservist in an elite 
infantry brigade was quoted as telling the Maariv daily.

Israel's largest paper, Yediot Ahronot, quoted one soldier as saying 
thirsty troops threw chlorine tablets into filthy water in sheep and cow 
troughs. Another said his unit took canteens from dead guerrillas.

“When you're thirsty and have to keep fighting, you don't think a lot, and 
there is no time to feel disgusted,” the unidentified soldier was quoted as 

The newspaper said helicopters were hindered from delivering food supplies 
or carrying out rescue operations because commanders feared the aircraft 
would be shot down. In some cases, soldiers bled to death because they were 
not rescued in time, Yediot Ahronot said.

The Israeli military said it was aware of the complaints, had tried to 
address them in the course of the fighting and was still looking into them. 
It had no comment on specific complaints.

Comrades of the two soldiers captured by Hezbollah sent a petition to the 
prime minister Thursday accusing the government of abandoning the men.

“We went to reserve duty with the certainty that all of Israel's citizens, 
and the Israeli government, believe in the same value that every combatant 
learns from his first day in basic training — you don't leave friends 
behind,” the soldiers wrote. “This is a moral low point. The Israeli 
government has abandoned two IDF (Israeli Defense Force) combatants that it 
sent on a mission.”

The petition was being circulated Friday; it was unclear how many soldiers 
had signed it.

While such sentiments aren't shared by all soldiers, even some senior 
commanders acknowledge the army came up short in Lebanon.

When soldier Gil Ovadia returned home, his commander made no mention of 
victory in an address to their battalion. Instead, the commander told them 
the war was over, said they did a good job, and advised that they be 
prepared to come back soon and fight again.

"We'll be back in Lebanon in a few months, maybe years," Ovadia said. 

More information about the Marxism mailing list