Human Right Watch rejects Israeli report to UN on Operation Cast Lead

NGO rejects Israeli assertion Bader flour mill was hit by tank during fight with Hamas, not from the air.

Tank mean 298 (photo credit: AP)
Tank mean 298
(photo credit: AP)
Israel’s 46-page report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the measures taken to investigate war crime allegations involving Operation Cast Lead is unsatisfactory, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.
“Israel has failed to demonstrate that it will conduct thorough and impartial investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations by its forces during last year’s Gaza conflict,” the international human rights organizations wrote.
“An independent investigation is needed if perpetrators of abuse, including senior military and political officials who set policies that violated the laws of war, are to be held accountable.”
Regarding one of the better-known charges included in the Goldstone Report, to the effect that Israel deliberately bombed the Bader flour mill from the air, HRW alleged that Israel “apparently missed” the remains of an aerial bomb that had struck the mill when it denied that it had bombed the vital civilian installation.
Last week, Israel submitted a document titled “Gaza Operation Investigations: An Update,” on the eve of Ban’s report to the General Assembly on progress made by Israel and Hamas in investigating alleged war crimes referred to in the Goldstone Report.
Israel’s update included one section on the various procedures the IDF employs in general to investigate suspicions of disciplinary or criminal violations by soldiers during military operations, and a second providing details on the status of 150 investigations carried out by the army regarding allegations of soldiers’ misconduct in Operation Cast Lead.
The Israeli report went into greater detail regarding four of the investigations into alleged war crimes that were among the 34 military allegedly criminal actions raised in the Goldstone Report. One involved the alleged aerial bombing on January 10, 2009, of the Bader flour mill.
According to Israel’s report to the UN, the IDF investigation determined that the mill was not bombed by a plane, but was apparently damaged by a tank shell during heavy fighting in the close vicinity.
“In the course of the operation, IDF troops came under intense fire from different Hamas positions in the vicinity of the flour mill,” the report stated. “The IDF forces fired back towards the sources of fire and threatening locations. As the IDF returned fire, the upper floor of the flour mill was hit by tank shells.”
According to HRW, the “military investigation apparently missed an important piece of evidence: remains of an aerial bomb found in the Bader mill. Israel denied targeting the mill from the air, as alleged by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. However, video footage obtained by HRW and released today shows the apparent remains of an Israeli MK-82 500-pound aerial bomb in the damaged mill, and UN de-miners say they defused the bomb.”
HRW also charged that Israel had not “provided information showing that the investigations will be thorough and impartial or that they will address the broader policy and command decisions that led to unlawful civilian deaths.”
Yossi Levy, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post, “We reject the unfounded claims in the HRW statement. If it has claims that are well-founded and based on facts and not on the routine accusation that Israel is in the wrong, we will investigate them.”