The Military Advocate-General’s Office has rejected opening a criminal
investigation into any of the 65 incidents from November’s Operation
Pillar of Defense that it has reviewed to date.
approximately another 15 cases still being reviewed, with no official
responses by human rights group to date, the MAG’s report, released late
on Thursday, added.
MAG head Maj.-Gen. Danny Efroni made the
decisions not to open criminal investigations based on recommendations
from the MAG’s special operational legal division for investigating war
The decisions were also based on the
recommendations of a committee of senior battle commanders led by
Maj.-Gen. Noam Tivon, Col. (res.).
Former head of the IDF international law department, Col. (res.) Liron Libman said that from the fact that the report was submitted in so close proximity to February 6, 2013, when the Turkel Commission's second report (Turkel II) was published and from a reference to Turkel II's recommendations still being reviewed, the investigations "probably had not been able to incorporate Turkel's recommendations."
On the other hand, one of
Turkel II’s recommendations was to speed up the review and
decision-making process regarding incidents, which Libman said was
clearly done here, with most of the decisions being publicized only
about six months after November’s Operation Pillar of Defense aerial
campaign against terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
The reasons for not opening criminal investigations varied widely.
example, in one of the more well-known incidents, 12 members of the
Dalu family were killed by an air attack intended to kill Hamas’s rocket
attacks commander, Yehiya Revia, according to media reports.
of the members of the family were participating in hostilities except
possibly one, Muhammad al-Dalu, although the report made no reference to
him or to having hit a terrorist, leaving the issue unsettled.
originally the IDF maintained it had killed a major terrorist target,
the report appears to admit indirectly in another section that only
civilians were killed.
The report states, however, that the
intelligence citing that a major terrorist was present and that
civilians were not, while mistaken, was gathered following procedures
meant to minimize civilian casualties or at least did not depart from
procedure in such a way that could possibly implicate any of the IDF
soldiers in a crime.
The document also noted that the commanders
who gave the order to hit the target, based on the available
intelligence, did not expect civilian casualties and had, in accordance
with IDF guidelines, ordered the use of a munition that would reduce the
likelihood of collateral damage.
The statement did not describe
the nature of the mistaken intelligence, nor did it describe the
munition that was used and what other munitions could have been used or
were under consideration.
Asked for more specific responses and
to clarify some of the ambiguous issues, the IDF Spokesman’s Office did
not respond by press time.
Regarding what he said was a much
faster completion of the investigations, Libman credited the faster pace
to there being not only the operational and legal investigations, but
also a currently serving and much higher-ranked officer, Maj.- Gen.
Nivon, overseeing the investigative process.
“Rank is a big deal in the IDF,” and makes most things go faster, he added.
he said, some of the speed of investigations could be attributed to the
fact that the operation was “more of an air war” than January 2009’s
Operation Cast Lead, which was a much more “complicated ground
Regarding some of the vague discussions of IDF
mistakes (the army did acknowledge, without specifying, some incidents
where civilians were misidentified as terrorists) or incidents where
civilians were killed, Libman said he would not be surprised if some of
the complainants involved might be provided additional specifics.
acknowledged that the MAG’s response in portions was “very general,”
and the dilemma of maintaining intelligence secrecy while trying to
reveal enough to the public to promote the legitimacy of the
From his military experience, Libman noted that
waging war in Gaza posed some of the greatest possible intelligence
challenges, which could lead to mistakes, no matter the precautions, as
it was an “urban environment where fighters intentionally mix in with
civilians,” and some objects could “look like rockets,” but turn out not
He said that the situations also were often “very
dynamic, with no civilians in a spot one moment, and then minutes later
unexpectedly civilians arrive.”
There is considerable debate
between the IDF and human rights groups about fulfilling the
proportionality principle in the civilian urban context, and how much
blame to place on Israel versus Hamas for civilian deaths.
crimes allegations for some highly reported air strikes on media
facilities are still being reviewed along with the 15 remaining cases,
the MAG report said.
Human rights groups, which have criticized
Israel before alleging war crimes, were contacted regarding the report,
but they were all still reviewing the findings and said they needed more
time before they could respond.