JERUSALEM (AFP) – A rights group on Monday published new photos of Israeli soldiers posing with a detainee and vandalising a Palestinian home, in images apparently taken during the 2008-2009 Gaza war.
In one picture, a soldier points his assault rifle at the face of a blindfolded detainee and in another an officer is seen spray-painting a Star of David and “Back soon” on what looks to be the wall of a home.
Others show soldiers smiling and posing inside what appear to be Palestinian homes, and in one picture two women can be seen preparing food in a kitchen.
Their release comes after a series of photos and videos depicting Palestinian prisoners have gone public after being posted on social network sites in a practice the military has said it is trying to halt.
The latest images were acquired by Breaking the Silence, a group of veteran Israeli combat soldiers who collect testimonies and photos of troops who have served in the occupied territories.
Yehuda Shaul, a founding member, declined to reveal the source of the photos, but said the group has received dozens of similar pictures that point to a widespread phenomenon.
“It’s the norm in the Israeli military, and it’s a direct consequence of being in a place where you control and rule civilians on a daily basis,” he said.
“You become corrupt, and you are not able any more to see them as human beings like you.”
The Israeli military issued a statement in which it faulted the group for making the photos public before bringing them to its attention, adding that “as in all previous cases, anomalous incidents are investigated.”
It went on to stress that “in no way, shape or form do pictures such as these reflect the values that the soldiers and commanders who fill our ranks are taught beginning with basic training and up through the most senior level.”
Shaul said the group decided to release the photos after previous incidents which the military characterised as exceptional cases.
“Playing around with detainees is something we have dozens of photos about. That’s the reality. That’s the nature of the occupation,” he said.
He added that the group was still trying to determine exactly when and where the photos were taken, but that they appeared to feature the same units, weapons and surroundings of other pictures taken during the Gaza war.
Israel launched a massive 22-day assault on the Hamas-ruled territory in December 2008 in a bid to halt near-daily rocket attacks. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the fighting.
In August, photos surfaced on the social networking website Facebook that showed a female soldier posing next to blindfolded Palestinian detainees, and a YouTube video earlier this month showed a soldier belly dancing next to a blindfolded female detainee wearing a headscarf.