The IDF Judge Advocate-General is working to expedite ongoing investigations into war crimes allegations against the IDF to be able to compose a report in the coming weeks that will counter Judge Richard Goldstone's damning indictment of Israel that was endorsed last week by the UN General Assembly.
IDF sources told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Maj.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit's office was reviewing 140 different cases that have been submitted since the operation ended in January, including most of the allegations raised in Goldstone's report.
The cases were reported to the IDF by different human rights organizations, NGOs, the media and individual Palestinians.
Out of the 140 cases, Mandelblit has instructed the Military Police to investigate 28 incidents in which IDF soldiers are suspected of looting, using Palestinian civilians as human shields, abusing Palestinian detainees and damaging property during the operation.
The Post has learned that the Military Police succeeded in questioning over 70 Gaza Palestinians at the Erez Crossing. The meetings were coordinated with the help of international organizations.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has appointed Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yuval Halamish, a former chief intelligence officer, as the "project manager" for coordinating IDF work on the report with other government offices.
Halamish, who retired from the IDF earlier this year, will be subordinate to the head of the IDF's Planning Branch, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel.
Defense officials said that one of Halamish's first tasks will be to oversee the investigations and ensure that they advance swiftly. He will also coordinate with other government ministries regarding the information required to write the counter-Goldstone report.
"The idea is to provide a response to the criticism in Goldstone's report and show the world that we did not need Goldstone to investigate ourselves," a senior defense official said.
"We have already conducted three layers of investigations - on a brigade level, a judge advocate-general level and a Military Police level," he said. "If we wanted to run away from the criticism we wouldn't have made the effort to question Palestinians at Erez."