Officers cloaked to hamper lawsuits

IDF to keep identities of commanders who fought in Gaza under wraps to prevent litigation in Europe.

soldiers cool 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
soldiers cool 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The IDF has decided not to release the names and pictures of battalion and brigade commanders who participated in Operation Cast Lead, Army Radio reported Wednesday morning. The decision was made in anticipation that international war crimes lawsuits would be filed against IDF officers, who could face prosecution when traveling overseas. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the IDF to set up a team of intelligence and legal experts to collect evidence related to operations in the Gaza Strip, that could be used to defend military commanders against future lawsuits. Called an "Incrimination Team," the group of experts has already received all of the footage filmed by IDF Combat Camera teams deployed inside the Gaza Strip, to review and decipher. All footage taken by Combat Camera soldiers is first given to brigade intelligence officers, who study it for intelligence information. The decision to set up the team was made as part of IDF preparations for a wave of international lawsuits related to Operation Cast Lead, which Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz warned last week would be filed against soldiers following the operation. In 2005, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, former OC Southern Command, avoided arrest at London's Heathrow Airport. He was warned not to disembark from his El Al flight as British detectives were waiting to arrest him for allegedly ordering the demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza in 2002. Using a loophole in Britain's Universal Jurisdiction legislation, Palestinian campaigners have filed private criminal complaints of "war crimes" against military personnel, even if the military personnel are citizens of other countries and the alleged charges were not committed on British soil. In 2006, then-Gaza Division commander Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who was scheduled to study at the Royal College of Defense Studies in London, was warned by an IDF judge that he could be arrested upon arrival. Kochavi subsequently canceled his trip to the UK. Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter also canceled a trip in 2007 out of concern that a warrant might be issued for his arrest. Yaakov Katz and Jonny Paul contributed to this report