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Killing "like a video game".

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    Killing like a video game . Grim image of Israeli occupation Veterans show dark side of presence in territories By John Murphy Sun Foreign Reporter Originally
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2007
      Killing "like a video game".

      Grim image of Israeli occupation
      Veterans show dark side of presence in territories
      By John Murphy
      Sun Foreign Reporter
      Originally published March 31, 2007

      HEBRON, West Bank // Yehuda Shaul stopped abruptly in the middle of a
      litter-strewn park in this West Bank city to point to a Palestinian
      school that he and other members of the Israeli army once commandeered
      so they could shoot at Palestinian gunmen. Shaul operated a grenade
      machine gun, a lethal though highly inaccurate weapon.

      "Anything hit within a radius of 8 meters is killed. Anybody within 16
      meters will be injured," he said. "When I first learned of my mission,
      I freaked out."

      But the young soldier did as he was told, firing as many 100 rounds
      per night into a crush of Palestinian homes, not knowing whom he might
      have wounded or killed.

      "It was like playing a video game," he recalled.

      Part confession, part condemnation of Israeli military policy, Shaul's
      walking tour of Hebron is a rare journey into the troubled conscience
      of an Israeli army veteran and the grim realities of Israel's
      occupation of the Palestinian territories.

      A bearish-looking 24-year-old with a head of shaggy black hair topped
      with a skullcap, Shaul is the founder of a group of former Israeli
      soldiers who have sought to prick the conscience of the Israeli public
      with their tales of military service.

      Called Breaking the Silence, the organization first came to the
      public's attention in 2004 when it created an exhibit of photographs,
      videos and testimonies of the routine injustices, humiliations and
      harassment of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces. The
      exhibit, displayed in Tel Aviv and the Israeli Parliament, stirred
      widespread debate about the consequences of Israel's occupation.

      Now the veterans are trying to focus Israelis' attention on Hebron,
      the historic burial site of Abraham - the father of Judaism,
      Christianity and Islam - and one of the gloomiest and most
      dysfunctional cities in the West Bank.

      "When I realized something was wrong here, we decided to do something
      about it," says Shaul. "We ... have a moral obligation to speak out."

      About a 45-minute drive south of Jerusalem, Hebron is the only place
      in the West Bank where a small community of Jewish settlers lives in
      the heart of a Palestinian city. Since 1997, Hebron has been divided
      into two sections. Some 150,000 Palestinians live under Palestinian
      control in an area known as H1. Israel controls about 20 percent of
      the city in an area known as H2, where 650 Jewish settlers live among
      30,000 Palestinians near Hebron's Old City.

      With the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, Hebron became
      the scene of a deadly mix of suicide bombings, shootings, stone
      throwing and other fighting between Palestinian militants, Israeli
      soldiers and Jewish settlers.

      "No one is innocent here," says Shaul, who spent 14 months of his
      three years of compulsory military service in Hebron. "Breaking the
      Silence exists to give testimony, to tell the story."

      But Shaul says his time in the military taught him that the story
      always has the most tragic ending for the Palestinians, who suffer
      from curfews, checkpoints and other restrictions even when Jewish
      settlers are responsible for the violence.

      "The Palestinians always pay the price," he said.

      During a three-hour journey through the narrow streets of this ancient
      city, Shaul sought to highlight the hardships created by Israel's
      occupation of Hebron that often go unnoticed by Israeli society.

      In Hebron's Casbah, the main marketplace, more than 2,000
      Palestinian-owned stores have been shut down by the Israeli army for
      security reasons, turning what had been the throbbing heart of the
      city into a ghost town. On many of the shuttered shop doors, there are
      spray-painted signs that say "Arabs Out."

      Shaul pointed to pockmarked Palestinian homes in neighborhoods where
      Israeli soldiers often came to crush cars, shoot out street lights and
      destroy property even when there were no Palestinian gunmen.

      "We were told we should make our presence felt," he said.

      Stepping up a rocky footpath, Shaul followed the trail used by
      Palestinians who are barred by Israeli forces from walking on Hebron's
      main street for security reasons. One twisted pathway led to the front
      door of Hashem al-Azzeh.

      Al-Azzeh's home is on the side of a hill below the Jewish settlement
      of Tel Rumeida, home to about 15 Jewish families. Al-Azzeh described
      how his settler neighbors have cut his phone line, electricity and
      water and have regularly tossed rubbish onto his property.



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