(photo credit: )
Military Police investigations into allegations of crimes by IDF
personnel during Operation Cast Lead have uncovered evidence that could
lead to indictments against officers and soldiers, a top officer said
Military Advocate-General Maj.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit will make the
final decision on whether charges will be brought against the soldiers.
On Friday, Israel released a 46-page paper documenting the steps it had
taken to investigate Operation Cast Lead operations while stressing
that its military judicial system was independent and under civilian
The document revealed that disciplinary action had been taken against
two top officers – Brig.-Gen. Eyal Eizenberg, commander of the Gaza
Division, and Col. Ilan Malka, commander of the Givati Brigade during
the operation – for permitting
artillery fire near a UN compound in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of
southern Gaza City. According to the report, OC Southern Command
Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant decided to sanction the officers after they
“violated the rules of engagement prohibiting use of such artillery
near populated areas.”
The incident occurred on January 15, 2009, in the Tel al-Hawa
neighborhood. During fighting with Hamas forces positioned alongside
the northern wall of an UN Relief and Works Agency facility, the IDF
fired artillery shells with white phosphorous-soaked wedges to cover
the movement of Israeli forces. Some of the shells allegedly fell
within the UNRWA compound, injuring three people and causing damage.
The IDF’s investigation found that Hamas units had fired at the IDF
with various kinds of weaponry, including light weapons, anti-tank
missiles, and sniper fire. Hamas anti-tank units, equipped with
advanced anti-tank missiles, were also operating in the area. Despite
these findings, Galant decided to sanction the officers for the
of possible wrongdoing by other soldiers was discovered in Military
Police investigations opened following Operation Cast Lead last winter.
officer would not reveal which allegations were backed up by evidence,
but other sources said the possibility that soldiers deliberately
killed innocent Palestinians had been ruled out. The remaining
investigations will be completed in the coming weeks.
“There is no evidence to back up the claim that IDF soldiers intentionally shot civilians,” a top defense official said.
date, the IDF has opened 150 investigations into Cast Lead, mostly
following complaints from human rights organizations, private
Palestinians and as a result of internal IDF probes.
Of the 150
incidents, 36 have been referred for criminal investigations in which
some 100 Palestinian testimonies have been collected, in addition to
another 500 from IDF soldiers and commanders.
One such case that
has caused a stir in the army has been the interrogation by Military
Police of a number of mid-level officers and soldiers from the
Paratroopers Brigade after a complaint was filed by Palestinians who
said they were abused during their detention during the offensive.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to report to the General
Assembly on Friday regarding what actions Israel and Hamas have taken
to investigate themselves. The Israeli report, titled “Gaza Operation
Investigations: Update,” focused on the investigations, legal
proceedings and lessons learned from the Gaza offensive.