IDF begins probe of 8 incidents from Gaza war

Nine investigations of Operation Protective Edge incidents have already been closed. There are still 47 more cases at preliminary review stages and around 50 at the initial stages.

By
December 7, 2014 09:11
Gaza

Israeli soldiers ride atop armoured personnel carriers near the border with the Gaza Strip August 20. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Only days after saying that even the most advanced techniques cannot fully stop civilian harm in war, the IDF advocate- general ordered eight additional criminal probes into this summer’s Gaza war.

The IDF announced late Saturday night that Maj.-Gen. Danny Efroni has opened criminal investigations into eight more incidents relating to this summer’s Gaza war, bringing the total number of incidents under criminal investigation to 13.

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The war led to the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians and 71 Israelis, as well as thousands of rocket attacks by Hamas on the Israeli home front and thousands of air strikes and artillery strikes by the IDF on Gaza.

Efroni gave the most extensive defense to date of the IDF’s conduct against a variety of criticisms at a conference last week.

He challenged critics to explain how their criticism of the volume of casualties, of attacking residences as a category and using artillery as a category were illegal under international law, arguing that the IDF is more advanced in avoiding casualties in urban settings than others, but that there is no perfect solution in war.

The Saturday night statement also said that nine initial reviews had been closed, with Efroni concluding that there was insufficient evidence to open a criminal investigation.

With the IDF already having completed initial fact-finding assessment reviews in a total of 47 cases, that means that 25 cases are sitting on Efroni’s case for a final decision.



Another 50 cases are still at more initial stages of review, out of the 100 cases being reviewed from the 400 complaints filed.

Of the 13 incidents being criminally investigated, the IDF has revealed details regarding 10 of the cases, including new details in five cases.

The new five cases include an IDF air strike on the residence of the Abu Jama family on July 20, which killed 27 Palestinians.

A criminal investigation was ordered as it was found that there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the attack “deviated from the rules that bind IDF forces.”

Two more incidents under investigation involved the killing of two different ambulance drivers on July 25. The first incident occurred near a Beit Hanun hospital at 5:28 p.m., while the second was at 11:45 p.m. in the Khan Yunis area.

In the first incident, the IDF stated a rationale for criminally investigating identical to the one it stated for the Abu Jama incident.

With regard to the second incident, the IDF said, “The factual findings collected did not provide a sufficient response to the allegations arising from operational reports and from allegations from human rights groups. As a result, the military advocate- general has ordered a criminal investigation to clarify the circumstances of the incident.”

Another newly disclosed investigation is the killing of Mahmoud Tawfik Mahmoud Kadiach by an IDF soldier while he was holding up a white flag in the Hazia area, with some controversy as to whether the incident occurred on July 25 or July 29.

The same investigation is also looking into the same IDF unit’s use of a member of Kadiach’s family as a human shield.

The next incident the IDF legal division is investigating is the alleged theft of property by IDF soldiers from four different Palestinians in Khan Yunis and Hazia during the second half of July.

Among the newly disclosed incidents for which the IDF has closed investigations, having found insufficient evidence for a criminal probe, is a July 29 striking of an UNSCO (United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process) office.

Though no one was killed, the office and one of UNSCO’s armored cars were hit, allegedly by explosive shells.

The IDF closed the case, finding that no explosive shells were fired in that area during that time and that the alleged damage was likely caused by a misfire of a light-burst shell or flare, which merely lights up the area but is not designed as an explosive munition.

Since flares are permitted under international law and IDF rules in urban settings when trying to counter and disrupt constant rocket fire, as the IDF noted, and any damage caused would have been an accident, the case was closed.

Another major incident that was closed is that of multiple IDF strikes on Wafa Hospital between July 11 and July 23.

The IDF said that Hamas used the hospital militarily throughout that time period as a key lookout site to follow IDF troop movements, for firing at IDF personnel and for firing rockets at the home front (from next to the hospital).

An initial review further showed that at a certain point, there were no patients left in the hospital and it was being used solely for military purposes.

The IDF also said it attempted to return fire on attacks emanating from the hospital in a surgical fashion and issued numerous warnings to civilians there to leave (and eventually all of them did) or stop military uses of the facility, until it finally launched a full attack on the facility on July 23.

It did note that one surgical attack on July 11 against Hamas’s lookout post on a high floor was executed without prior warning, and disciplinary proceedings are being explored, but no civilians were hurt and the attack was surgical, so even that incident will not entail a criminal investigation.

In two other major related incidents, the IDF closed an initial probe into striking part of Shifa Hospital and the nearby Shaati refugee camp on July 28, killing 10 Palestinians, finding that the IDF did not strike the area and that it was caused by rocket fire from Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Next, the IDF closed the probe into an attack on a disabled care center that killed two Palestinians and injured four, finding that the target was a different part of the building, hiding Hamas munitions.

Further, the IDF said that it knew that there was a child daycare center nearby and had taken precautions to warn its inhabitants and attacked at night so they would not be around, but did not know about the disabled care center and, therefore, could not hold those who launched the strike criminally responsible.

A probe of three other alleged strikes on ambulances in Beit Hanun on July 22 was closed when the IDF could not identify from its own data that such an attack occurred, nor were there reports from emergency responders.

In September, the IDF made its initial announcement on investigations into incidents from the war.

As in the past, the incidents are separated into larger incidents impacting multiple potential victims and smaller incidents impacting as few as one victim.

That announcement included an investigation into a larger incident surrounding the military strike on a Gaza beach on July 16, in which four Palestinian boys were killed.

The second larger incident investigation will look into the circumstances around an IDF strike on an UNRWA school in Gaza on July 24, in which 14 Palestinians were killed.

Other major incidents involving alleged attacks on mosques, other sensitive areas and the likely use of the controversial aggressive “Hannibal Procedure” to pursue Hamas fighters who the IDF believed might have kidnapped a soldier are still at initial stages of being probed, and no decision has yet been made on whether to close the cases or open a full criminal investigation.

The Hannibal Procedure incident in particular has drawn significant media attention, with soldiers surprisingly answering an interview in detail on the incident in late September.

Also in September, Efroni ordered immediate in-depth investigations into three smaller cases.

The first involves suspected looting by soldiers, in which it appears that the soldiers may already have confessed.

The second investigation is examining how a woman who coordinated an exit from her home in Gaza was nevertheless shot and killed.

The third incident being fully investigated involves claims that a 17-year-old Gazan youth was taken into custody and held for five days, during which, he says, he was moved from place to place by soldiers and beaten.

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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