High Court rejects petition to open criminal investigation of IDF over 2014 Gaza deaths

Statistics show that the IDF’s civilian-to-terrorist death ratio is the lowest in the world.


The Israeli High Court of Justice rejected on Sunday a petition filed by the Bakr family from the Gaza Strip, the parents of four boys who were killed during an Israeli attack on a Gaza City beach in July 2014 during the IDF’s counterterrorism Operation Protective Edge.

The petition was filed in 2020 by three organizations, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).

The petitioners demanded that the Court overturn the Attorney General’s (AG) decision to reject an appeal against the closure of the investigation and to order the opening of a criminal investigation that could have led to the prosecution of those responsible for the deaths. The AG’s decision in September 2019 was to fully adopt the Military Advocate General’s decision to close the investigation.

The petitioners alleged that the investigative materials show that the IDF “intentionally opened deadly fire at the children in serious violation of the laws of war and criminal law, since they aimed at the children directly without identification and without taking the necessary precautions.”

The petitioners further claimed that the IDF’s probe was flawed

However, the three-panel court ruled that it sees no reason to intervene in the AG’s decision. The 11-page judgment written by Chief Justice Esther Hayut was endorsed by Justices Alex Stein and Isaac Amit.

The Court’s decision stated that the decision to close the case was made after “the incident was comprehensively and thoroughly investigated,” taking into account intelligence information held by the military prior to, and during the attack, meaning that the IDF was targeting terrorists and not the children.

The ruling also relied on intelligence reviewed only by the judges, which substantiates the Israeli military’s claim that the area attacked was used by Hamas forces.

The human shield tactic

The ruling repeated the AG’s determination that the missile attacks were carried out in compliance with the principles of distinction and proportionality and in accordance with military procedures.

It further stated that “this court has repeatedly emphasized the uniqueness of the combat operation, which is characterized by high intensity, which requires the military forces to make quick decisions on the ground and to take risks under conditions of uncertainty.”

In response, the petitioners contended that this ruling “essentially gives full license to the Israeli military to kill civilians with the widest impunity.”

However, statistics show that the IDF’s civilian-to-terrorist death ratio is the lowest in the world.

The former Commander of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, went on record as saying that “the UN estimates that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.”

The IDF maintained a 1:1 ratio between killed terrorists and civilians in 2003, and lowered it to a 1:28 ratio in late 2005. Several IAF mishaps in 2006 lowered the ratio to 1:10, but the current ratio is at its lowest ever–more than 1:30, and so for every dead civilian, 30 terrorists are killed, or about 3% of the total casualties are civilian.

The IDF has noted that “the sad fact is, Israeli Air Force strikes sometimes result in civilian casualties. This is a result of the human shield tactic, a method adopted by Hamas and other terror organizations in the Gaza Strip. Basically, terrorists hide within houses, schools, mosques and other ‘harmless’ environments, and use them as a cover from which to shoot rockets.”