The IDF has investigated 400 different complaints filed after Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and questioned more than 600 officers and soldiers, 20 of them under warning, according to statistics released to the public on Wednesday.

Out of the 400 complaints, 50 evolved into criminal investigations – led by the Military Police – and three into indictments, most recently in the case of two soldiers from the Givati Brigade who were convicted last month of exceeding their authority by ordering a nine-year-old Palestinian boy to open bags they suspected might be booby-trapped during the operation in Gaza.

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The IDF has come under heavy public criticism for pressing charges against the two soldiers. On Wednesday the word “traitor” was found spray painted on a wall outside the home of Military Advocate General (MAG) Maj.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit.

The IDF released the statistics regarding its investigations on Wednesday as Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi sent a letter to all IDF officers and soldiers explaining the need for post-operation probes.

“It is the IDF’s legal and moral obligation, as the military of a Jewish and democratic law-abiding state, to check every claim of illegal activity by our people,” Ashkenazi wrote, “That is what was done with regards to the hundreds of complaints that were filed against our soldiers following Operation Cast Lead.” Ashkenazi conceded that the preferable course of action would be through the chain of command within a unit. But, he said, there were cases that required the involvement of the MAG’s office.

Ashkenazi rejected criticism leveled in recent weeks that the IDF has taken the involvement of legal authorities in post-operation inquiries too far, and that senior commanders were not being supportive of their subordinates who came under investigation.

“I was not surprised that the vast majority of the cases investigated were found to be baseless. The IDF operated in the past and will operate in the future in accordance with the rule of law and the value of human life even when fighting an enemy that shows contempt to all law and moral norms,” he wrote.

“At the same time, we are not exempt from decisive action in cases in which soldiers deviated from the norm and violated military regulations and the IDF’s overall combat ethics.

“This is not just an obligation but is also a top interest for every soldier and commander in the IDF,” he concluded.

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