Soldiers cleared in Beit Hanun probe

2006 shelling which killed 21 civilians found to be due to failure in artillery fire control system.

Beit Hanun 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Beit Hanun 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The investigation into the 2006 IDF shelling in Beit Hanun which killed 21 Palestinian civilians concluded Tuesday that the conduct of those involved in the incident was not substantially or severely negligent in a manner that would justify taking legal action against them. The Military Advocate General said that following the incident, the most high ranking commanders and professionals had earned lessons in order to prevent such an event from recurring in the future and that the conclusions had since been implemented in the combat field. The incident occurred on November 8th that year when an IDF shell hit two buildings in the Gaza town. As a result, former Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, appointed a committee, led by former Deputy Head of the Ground Forces Command, Maj. Gen. Meir Califfee, to investigate the circumstances of the incident. Following an extensive and thorough investigation, the Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendlblit, decided that the facts regarding the incident, presented by the committee, were detailed and clear, and that consequently there was no need to open a Military Police investigation on the matter. It was also decided that no legal action is to be taken against any military official regarding this incident. The investigation found that the decision to fire artillery at launching sites in the area near Beit Hanun, from which Kassam rockets were fired at Israel previously, was carried out following credible and specific intelligence information, indicating the intention of the terrorist organizations to fire rockets from this area. The fire, aimed at one of the targets located over 450 meters away from the town's borders, in fact hit two residential buildings and caused the death and injury of the Palestinians. The conclusions of the inquiry showed that the civilian deaths and casualties were not intentional and was directly due to a rare and severe failure in the artillery fire control system operated at the time of the incident. This failure caused incorrect range-findings that lead, unknowingly, to fire at a different target then planned initially, the investigation found. It said this failure was discovered in an inquiry conducted following the incident, which showed that the failure was indeed an extremely rare malfunction that even the designated technicians of the control system had not encountered in the past.