Gantz to promote colonel probed for Cast Lead

Last criminal probe into Operation Cast Lead closed; Malka cleared of bombing building knowing it contained civilians.

Col. Ilan Malka 311 (photo credit: IDF )
Col. Ilan Malka 311
(photo credit: IDF )
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz has decided to promote former Givati Brigade commander Col. Ilan Malka to the rank of brigadier-general after a three-year legal saga, putting to rest the last criminal investigation into Operation Cast Lead.
Malka commanded the Givati Brigade during the Cast Lead offensive against Hamas in Gaza, which was launched on December 27, 2008. Last month, The Jerusalem Post reported on senior field commanders’ criticism of the Military Advocate General’s office which the officers accused of dragging its feet in ruling on Malka’s case.
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Former military advocate general (MAG) Maj.-Gen. (res.) Avichai Mandelblit – who retired earlier this year – decided to launch a criminal investigation against Malka in early 2010 over allegations that he ordered an airstrike on a building in Gaza despite allegedly knowing that it was occupied by civilians.
Last week, the MAG completed its investigation of Malka and cleared him of criminal wrongdoing. Gantz summoned Malka for a meeting and announced his decision to promote him to the rank of brigadier general, although for the time being to a desk job and not yet in a command post, like the commander of a division.
Other IDF officers who commanded brigades during the operation – such as then-Paratrooper’s Brigade commander Hertzi Halevy and then-commander of the 401st Armored Brigade Yigal Slovik – have since been promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. They both serve in senior field command posts.
The investigation against Malka focused on the bombing on January 5, 2009, during the ground offensive stage of the three-week operation, of a home in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood which killed 21 members of the Samouni family.
The case was highlighted in the Goldstone Report – which investigated alleged Israeli war crimes during the operation – and Mandelblit decided to launch a Military Police investigation almost two years ago to rule out the possibility that Malka ordered the strike while knowing civilians were inside.
Due to the investigation, Malka’s promotion was put on hold and he has served as chief operations officer for the Central Command since. The IDF has yet to announce what position Malka will receive in the upcoming round of appointments expected to be determined in the coming weeks.