Prominent Israeli journalist Yossi Melman revealed on Friday details of an Israeli army war crime committed during the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel occupied the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, the Syrian Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
In a thread on Twitter, Melman, a security correspondent, said that at the Israeli occupation army burnt alive at least 20 Egyptian soldiers and the next day used a bulldozer to dig and bury their bodies in an unmarked mass grave.
The area of the mass grave was annexed to Israeli Kibbutz Nahshon, which was built on the land of a Palestinian neighbourhood called Wadi El-Latrun, 25 kilometres west of Jerusalem and 14 kilometres southeast of Al-Ramla. According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the story was “hushed up and the fields became part of the Mini Israel park.”
“After 55 years of heavy censorship,” Melman wrote, “I can reveal that at least 20 Egyptian soldiers were burnt alive and buried by IDF in a mass grave, which was not marked and without being identified contrary to war laws, in Latrun. It happened during the Six-Day-War.”
While Melman found that at least 20 Egyptian soldiers were burnt alive in that incident, other sources, including Haaretz, estimated the number to be as high as 80 unidentified and unmarked buried casualties.
Melman said that the incident took place in a no-man’s land, but Haaretz disclosing that the land was a Palestinian neighbourhood “whose inhabitants had recently fled or been expelled, and whose houses had been razed to the ground.” It refers to 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians – the Nakba.For all objective observers around the globe, Israel is clearly a rogue state which has committed numerous war crimes and it has the worst and most immoral army which continues to carry out daily crimes against Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territories and in historic Palestine.
When this rogue state commits a crime, its army and political officials claim that such incidents are isolated events. In 1995, three months before he was assassinated, late Israeli Prime Minister Ishak Rabin said: “The Israeli Defence Forces earned their glory as a humane army whose soldiers are blessed with special moral values.” However, the reality is the opposite and the disclosure or the crime of burning Egyptian soldiers alive is part of the proof.
Then Israeli army commander, Ze’ev Bloch, now 90 years old, told Melman and other media sources that at the time of the torching of the Egyptian soldiers, he watched as Israeli soldiers “looted personal belongings [of the dead Egyptian soldiers] and left the mass grave unmarked.” Looting and leaving graves unmarked without notifying the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
I am sure further investigations in the area will provide proof of other war crimes.
Haaretz’s report suggests the Israeli occupation army used prohibited phosphorus bombs to start the fire in the bush which killed the Egyptian soldiers, who either surrendered or fled. This also raises the question about another violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prevents killing soldiers who are out of the fight by reason of injury or surrender.
The scene of burning and killing prisoners of war was horrifying, according to eyewitness Bloch, who said: “We were ashamed,” but stressed that the killing was an “IDF decision.”
In 1995, Arye Biro, spoke of how he executed 49 Egyptian POWs in 1956. He told reporters, according to AP, that he was ready to do the same thing again; however, he said: “I don’t think I’m a war criminal.”
Biro said he was protecting others who shared the decision on the killing of POW.
According to the AP report, Israeli historians said Biro’s actions were far from unique with Israeli veteran and author Michael Bar-Zohar saying prisoner killings occurred “in all of Israel’s wars″ and “were treated forgivingly” and hushed up by leaders.
Meanwhile, the report cited Israeli military historian, Aryeh Yitzhaki, saying that Israeli troops carried out several massacres in the 1967 war, when Rabin, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was army chief, in which about 1,000 Egyptian prisoners were killed.
Bar-Zohar also told AP: “Two cooks with knives … simply slaughtered three prisoners. This incident has haunted me for a long time.”
On 9-10 June 1967, some 400 Egyptian and Palestinian prisoners were killed in the sand dunes of El-Arish, Yitzhaki said, adding that there were six or seven other incidents in which Israeli troops opened fired on POWs.The leaders of the “moral army” knew about this and likely were happy with it. Yitzhaki told the AP that a report on the killings submitted to his superiors has been locked away in a safe at military headquarters. “The whole army leadership, including (then) Defence Minister Moshe Dayan and Chief of Staff Rabin and the generals knew about these things. No one bothered to denounce them,” Yitzhaki said. So, where is the morality?
On twitter, Melman claimed that both Arabs and Israelis “committed war crimes” during the wars, but he blamed Israel for “presenting itself as a democracy,” while it has been concealing its shameful past under the pretext of national security. Adding that “real democracy must face its past.”
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.