Israel details IDF’s Cast Lead probes

Rebuttal sent to Ban Ki-moon; HRW: Hamas lied about not targeting civilians.

Judge Richard Goldstone (photo credit: courtesy)
Judge Richard Goldstone
(photo credit: courtesy)

Israel is set to deliver a40-page “letter” to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday afternoon,explaining the independence of ’slegal system, and the efficacy of the justice system in the military.

Diplomatic officials stressed that this letter is not the IDF’s answer to theGoldstone Commission report. The IDF rebuttal is currently being completed,will number more than 1,000 pages and will answer point-by-point all theallegations in the Goldstone Report.
Rather, the letter to be handed over on Friday will spell out for Ban how theIDF investigated allegations of misconduct during Operation Cast Lead lastwinter, and will point out that Israel’ssystem of military justice compares with that in other democratic countries andis independent, and that the IDF’s investigations are serious.
The UN General Assembly endorsed the Goldstone Report in November, giving both Israel andHamas until February 5 to open independent investigations into their actionsand report back to the secretary-general.
The letter is not expected to deal with the controversial question of whether Israel will setup an independent commission to investigate the allegations that appeared inthe Goldstone document.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazimodified their objections this week to the establishment of any independentcommission, coming around to the idea of setting up a judicial investigativepanel to review internal IDF investigations and determine whether they werethorough enough and lived up to accepted legal standards.
While Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermanhave come out in favor of some kind of independent inquiry, Prime MinisterBinyamin Netanyahu has not made his position on the matter known. He isreportedly coming under intense political pressure from Barak not to agree toan independent committee of inquiry that could independently question officersand soldiers.
There is some speculation that the issue could come before either the cabinetor the security cabinet next week.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, during a visit to this week, said Israel would not set up a specialinvestigative panel to look into the IDF’s conduct.
The Goldstone Report, written by a mission headed by war crimes prosecutorJudge Richard Goldstone, accused both Hamas and of war crimes and possiblecrimes against humanity during Operation Cast Lead. But the report reserved itsharshest criticism for Israel,accusing the IDF of targeting Gazan civilians with disproportionate force.
Hamas has claimed any civilian casualties the group caused were accidental, TheAssociated Press reported on Wednesday.
But Human Rights Watch on Thursday disputed Hamas’s claim that it did nottarget civilians during Operation Cast Lead. Instead, researchers at the NewYork-based rights group cited evidence that Hamas gunmen intentionally aimedrockets at Israeli communities and used Gazan civilians as human shields duringfighting.
“Hamas’s claim that rockets were intended to hit Israeli military targets andonly accidentally harmed civilians is belied by the facts,” the group said.
Most of the rocket attacks on hit civilian areas, Human Rights Watch said. Furthermore, statements from Hamasleaders during the war indicate Hamas intended to harm Israeli citizens. Thegroup said Hamas fired rockets from populated areas, endangering Gazans because
was likely to retaliate. And, contrary to the Goldstone Report, Human RightsWatch said Hamas men used civilians to shield themselves from counterattacks.
Israel has been highlycritical of a number of Human Rights Watch reports that have already been issuedon the war, variously charging that theyhave been badly biased against and unprofessional.
AP contributed to this report.