Dominic Waghorn, Middle East correspondent

The Israeli military is reeling from a series of disturbing revelations made by soldiers about their conduct during the war in Gaza.

A Palestinian man prays on the tomb of a relative killed during Israel's 22-day military operation over Gaza

A Palestinian man prays on the tomb of a relative killed in Gaza war

Confessions by troops quoted in two Israeli newspapers contradict the Israeli military's claim to have acted according to the highest moral standards during the offensive in January.

In one testimony soldiers describe how a mother and her two children were deliberately shot by a sniper because a failure in communications.

The Palestinans were part of a group ordered to leave a house and told to turn right by soldiers, according to Haaretz newspaper.

The three turned left by mistake.

"They forgot to tell the marksman on the roof that they were released" relates the squad leader.

"The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straightaway."

The revelations were made during a session of an Israeli college attended by infantrymen and pilots who took part in the offensive.

The same squad leader said there was a feeling in the army that the lives of Palestinians were "very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers".

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires a shell towards Gaza

Israeli shells fire on Gaza

Another squad leader described how a company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman be shot and killed at a distance of a hundred metres a distance.

From that range it should have been possible to warn her or determine whether or not she was a threat.

The same commander allegedly also ordered the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning their residents first.

The soldiers aired concerns about the morality of their comrades and their racist attitudes towards Palestinians.

"To write 'death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can," a soldier is quoted as saying in Haaretz. "I think this is the main thing - to understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really."

Maariv newspaper claims there was "an atmosphere in which the combatants understood that all this was permitted and would not be investigated".

The Israeli military has told both newspapers: "The IDF is currently conducting in-depth thorough inquiries. The IDF has no supporting or previous information regarding the events in question"