The Military Advocate General informed Human Rights Group B'Tselem on Tuesday that it had closed the Military Police investigation into an incident in which 21 family members were killed during an IDF strike on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2009.
In a letter to B'Tselem, who filed a complaint over the incident, military prosecutors rejected claims that the IDF officers and soldiers involved, including Givati Brigade Brig.-Gen. Ilan Malka, intentionally targeted civilians or caused death through negligence.
"The investigation completely disproved any claim about deliberate harm to civilians, as well as haste and recklessness about possible harm to civilians, or criminal negligence," Maj. Dorit Tuval wrote in the letter.
The investigation focused on the bombing on January 5, 2009, during the ground offensive stage of the three-week operation, of a home in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood which killed 21 members of the Samouni family. The case was highlighted in the Goldstone Report – which investigated alleged Israeli war crimes during the operation.
In response, attorney Yael Stein, B'Tselem's head of research, said: "It is unacceptable that no one is found responsible for an action of the army that led to the killing of 21 uninvolved civilians, inside the building they were in under soldiers' orders, even if not deliberately. The way the army has exempted itself of responsibility in this case, even if only to accept the severity of the event and clarify its circumstances, even if accidental, is outrageous. Shirking the responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of other civilians and the immense damage caused by Operation Cast Lead demonstrates yet again the need for an Israeli investigation mechanism that is external to the army."Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.