Comptroller report gives passing grade to IDF conduct in 2014 Gaza war

The long-awaited state comptroller report on the IDF’s conduct during the 2014 Gaza war was mostly positive, but makes recommendations.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

State comptroller Yosef Shapira presented Wednesday his extensive report on Operation Protective Edge, the war fought between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014 following the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers by Hamas operatives in the Gush Etzion region.

The IDF launched Operation Protective Edge with an end to continuous rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and the destruction of Hamas terror tunnels as the main objective.

The comptroller placed great emphasis on how well Israel adhered to international law that pertained to armed conflicts and human rights. In expressing general satisfaction with the performance of the IDF in this regard, the report noted the tremendous difficulty the army faced in protecting civilians on the enemy side when Hamas used them as human shields and fired missiles and mortar shells from areas such as schools and hospitals. Yet the report details the extensive efforts made to limit such casualties on the operational end, as well as the numerous times the issue was discussed in the security cabinet.

More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed during the 50-day war, approximately half of them civilians. Meanwhile, Hamas and other terror groups fired thousands of rockets into Israel, in which 68 soldiers and six civilians were killed.

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The report noted several recommendations regarding actions taken both during and after battle. In the area of education regarding international law, it said commanders must be better trained in the law of armed conflict and called for legal advisors to be integrated even below division-level – although the latter point was rejected by the army, which said there was “no room” for this.

Countries express interest in IDF method

Post-battle, it said, the army takes too long to decide whether to open a criminal investigation or file an indictment for specific actions taken by soldiers. Although the IDF’s decision to run operational debriefings, in parallel to any legal investigations into possible crimes committed during those operations, satisfied the minimal requirements of international law, it did not isolate the legal system enough. However, the report also noted that several countries have expressed interest in having their own armed forces adopt this system, an original one invented by the IDF, as it is more advanced than what they currently have.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has been waiting for the comptroller’s report to be published, as it had been threatenig to launch an investigation into Operation Protective Edge for war crimes possibly committed by Israel if it suspects that the country was mishandling its internal investigations. The 169-page report took three and a half years to complete and was published in both Hebrew and English, something that is rarely done – possibly with an eye on who some of its interested readers may be.