Almost 100 Cast Lead complaints reviewed; Army source: We don't need NGOs to force probes.
By YAAKOV KATZ
The army is currently reviewing close to 100 complaints accusing soldiers of criminal conduct during the assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
IDF Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit, it is understood, has ordered the Military Police to launch criminal investigations into 14 of the cases.
A senior IDF source said Wednesday that the investigations were proof of the IDF's longstanding claim that it was capable of conducting responsible internal investigations into complaints against its soldiers.
"We do not need NGOs and rights groups to tell us to investigate ourselves," the source said. "We know how to investigate on our own and have been open all along to receiving additional material from these groups."
The near-100 cases are being reviewed by a variety of IDF units, including the air force, the Southern Command and specific brigades and battalions. Their findings are then being presented to the JAG, who decides whether they warrant the opening of an official criminal investigation.
The allegations were received from a number of sources. Some were initiated internally by soldiers. Some came directly from Palestinians. Others were raised by various nongovernment organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross and Breaking the Silence.
A Breaking the Silence report two weeks ago on Operation Cast Lead included testimonies from 26 unnamed soldiers who participated in the campaign and claimed that the IDF used Gazans as human shields, improperly fired incendiary white phosphorous shells over civilian areas and used overwhelming firepower that caused needless death and destruction.
Military sources said that the reviews were being conducted into allegations that soldiers looted Palestinian homes, beat Palestinian prisoners and used Palestinians as human shields when sweeping homes for weaponry and terrorists during the operation.
Similar allegations were raised in the Breaking the Silence report.
The IDF traditionally does not formally comment on ongoing investigations.
Two soldiers from the Givati Brigade were recently charged with stealing a Palestinian credit card during the operation and using it to withdraw cash from ATMs in Israel.
That investigation was launched after Ahmed Rafia, a resident of Gaza City, filed a complaint with the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration regarding the theft. Rafia, whose account is at Bank of Palestine, told officers from the administration that his card was stolen and that NIS 1,600 was withdrawn from ATMs in Israel following the conclusion of the operation in January.
In related news, the army has decided that in the event of a future conflict it will issue more detailed warnings to Palestinians before air strikes in residential areas. During Cast Lead, the IDF dropped millions of flyers in areas before raids and placed close to 250,000 phone calls to homes before they were bombed. The phone calls and distribution of flyers was part of an overall IDF effort to minimize harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure during the three-week-long offensive.
In recent discussions on the results of the operation, senior IDF officers have called to make improvements to procedures and to provide more details in the flyers to ensure that the Palestinians realize that their lives are at risk. Some of the flyers may henceforth include details on routes that the Palestinians can use to flee an area which is scheduled to be invaded.
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