Israeli rights groups reject IDF probe

Army says it acted ethically during Cast Lead; NGOs call on gov't to cooperate with UN investigation team.

gaza ruins 248.88ap (photo credit: AP [file])
gaza ruins 248.88ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Human Rights organizations were highly critical on Wednesday of the army's response to their allegations of serious international law violations and demands for an independent investigation which they raised during and after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last December and January. Ten Israeli organizations said the results were "very problematic. Military investigation results published today refer to dozens of innocent Palestinian civilians killed by 'rare mishaps' in Gaza during 'Operation Cast Lead,'" the statement read. "However, data collected by Israeli human rights organizations shows that many civilians were killed in Gaza not due to 'mishaps' but as a direct result of the military's chosen policy implemented throughout the fighting. The only way to investigate violations of human rights committed in Gaza is by establishing an external, extra-military investigation mechanism." The statement was issued by B'Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, Gisha, Adalah, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Yesh Din, Hamoked, The Public Committee against Torture, Bimkom and Rabbis for Human Rights. They called on the government to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council investigation team headed by Richard Goldstone. In a more detailed response to the army's report on medical facilities, ambulances and crews, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) wrote that the army investigation "was guilty of serious flaws." The organization charged that the army prevented the evacuation of wounded Palestinians and attacked ambulances and that these incidents were not "rare problems" but systemic failures. PHR charged that the army had killed 16 Palestinian medical personnel and wounded 25 and had damaged 34 medical facilities, including eight hospitals. "The army investigation deals with a small number of the problematic incidents during Operation Cast Lead," said PHR director-general Hadas Ziv. "There are still many questions that the army needs to be asked, such as whether the investigators interviewed wounded Palestinians or whether it was legal to kill an ambulance driver just because he belonged to Hamas." Meanwhile, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) charged that "the IDF statement is an insult to the civilians in Gaza who needlessly died and an embarrassment to IDF officers who take military justice seriously. The IDF leadership is apparently not interested, willing or able to monitor itself. "We consider the IDF investigations announced today a cover-up for serious violations of international law," charged HRW. "Hamas also seriously violated the laws of war and HRW will continue to document violations on both sides. Meretz chairman Haim Oron criticized the findings, saying there was not enough to "dispel the harsh notion that too many red lines were crossed during Operation Cast Lead."