Israel details IDF’s Cast Lead probes

Rebuttal sent to Ban Ki-moon; HRW: Hamas lied about not targeting civilians.

January 29, 2010 03:44
2 minute read.
Judge Richard Goldstone

Judge Richard Goldstone. (photo credit: courtesy)

Israel is set to deliver a 40-page “letter” to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday afternoon, explaining the independence of ’s legal system, and the efficacy of the justice system in the military.

Diplomatic officials stressed that this letter is not the IDF’s answer to the Goldstone Commission report. The IDF rebuttal is currently being completed, will number more than 1,000 pages and will answer point-by-point all the allegations in the Goldstone Report.

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Rather, the letter to be handed over on Friday will spell out for Ban how the IDF investigated allegations of misconduct during Operation Cast Lead last winter, and will point out that Israel’s system of military justice compares with that in other democratic countries and is independent, and that the IDF’s investigations are serious.

The UN General Assembly endorsed the Goldstone Report in November, giving both Israel and Hamas until February 5 to open independent investigations into their actions and report back to the secretary-general.

The letter is not expected to deal with the controversial question of whether Israel will set up an independent commission to investigate the allegations that appeared in the Goldstone document.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi modified their objections this week to the establishment of any independent commission, coming around to the idea of setting up a judicial investigative panel to review internal IDF investigations and determine whether they were thorough enough and lived up to accepted legal standards.

While Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have come out in favor of some kind of independent inquiry, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has not made his position on the matter known. He is reportedly coming under intense political pressure from Barak not to agree to an independent committee of inquiry that could independently question officers and soldiers.

There is some speculation that the issue could come before either the cabinet or the security cabinet next week.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, during a visit to this week, said Israel would not set up a special investigative panel to look into the IDF’s conduct.

The Goldstone Report, written by a mission headed by war crimes prosecutor Judge Richard Goldstone, accused both Hamas and of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead. But the report reserved its harshest criticism for Israel, accusing the IDF of targeting Gazan civilians with disproportionate force.

Hamas has claimed any civilian casualties the group caused were accidental, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

But Human Rights Watch on Thursday disputed Hamas’s claim that it did not target civilians during Operation Cast Lead. Instead, researchers at the New York-based rights group cited evidence that Hamas gunmen intentionally aimed rockets at Israeli communities and used Gazan civilians as human shields during fighting.

“Hamas’s claim that rockets were intended to hit Israeli military targets and only accidentally harmed civilians is belied by the facts,” the group said.

Most of the rocket attacks on hit civilian areas, Human Rights Watch said. Furthermore, statements from Hamas leaders during the war indicate Hamas intended to harm Israeli citizens. The group said Hamas fired rockets from populated areas, endangering Gazans because was likely to retaliate. And, contrary to the Goldstone Report, Human Rights Watch said Hamas men used civilians to shield themselves from counterattacks.

Israel has been highly critical of a number of Human Rights Watch reports that have already been issued on the war, variously charging that they have been badly biased against and unprofessional.

AP contributed to this report.

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