IDF clears troops in several war crimes allegations cases

The IDF’s Military Advocate General (MAG) on Wednesday cleared IDF forces of wrongdoing in three deadly incidents that took place during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

In a statement Wednesday, the military said it had closed seven cases without filing charges after a special team collected testimony from Gaza residents and Israeli officers, sifted through the evidence and found nothing indicating wrongdoings.

“This update is in accordance with the MAG’s policy to ensure transparency with regard to the examination and investigation process, and follows previous updates on this subject,” stated IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

The deadliest incident involved an Israeli Air Force (IAF) airstrike in the town of Rafah on August 1, 2014, that killed 15 members of the Zoroub family.

The army said the building was used by Hamas as a command and control center. The airstrike was in line with international law, which can allow attacks on homes used for military purposes, the IDF stated. Furthermore, among the dead was Nazmi Zoroub, one of the family members whom the IDF identified as a senior Hamas commander.

“The attack complied with the principle of proportionality as, at the time the decision to attack was taken, it was considered that the collateral damage expected to occur as a result of the attack would not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated from it,” it said.

“This assessment was not unreasonable under the circumstances, despite the discovery, in the wake of the strike, of discrepancies between the reality prevailing on the ground and the information available at the time,” it added.

The IDF also said it would not file charges in a July 21, 2014, incident that left 12 members of the Siyam family in Rafah dead. They had been killed by mortar shells misfired by Palestinian terrorists, the IDF said, and could not find evidence to back claims that they were killed by an Israeli airstrike.

The army also found no transgressions in an airstrike a day earlier that killed seven members of the Ziyadeh family in the Bureij refugee camp. It said the building had been used as a Hamas command and control center and that several terrorists, including three members of the family, and a top Hamas military leader, were among the dead.

Hamas’ use of human shields was extensively documented, while the IDF’s practices to prevent civilian casualties have been employed by other armies, and have even been criticized as being too stringent, at the expense of counter-terrorism military successes and even at the risk of the operating forces.

Israel launched the operation in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire by Palestinian terrorists on Israeli civilian targets from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. During 50 days of fighting, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, and 73 people on the Israeli side were killed, mostly IDF soldiers. About half of the Palestinian dead were combatants, an exemplary ratio in complex urban warfare.

A 2015 UN investigation claimed to have found evidence of war crimes by both sides, saying Israel appeared to have used disproportionate force and endangered civilians. It also criticized Hamas for firing rockets indiscriminately toward civilian areas in Israel.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague has launched a preliminary examination of Israel’s conduct during the operation, but issued no conclusions. The court can intervene in cases where a country is deemed incapable of conducting a proper investigation, which is apparently not the case with Israel.

The Palestinians have, of course, dismissed the IDF’s findings

The IDF said it investigated some 360 complaints connected to the counter-terrorism operation. It has found enough evidence to launch 31 criminal investigations. At least 13 of those probes were closed, with indictments in three cases of alleged looting, aiding and abetting, by soldiers whose cases will be referred for criminal investigation.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
AP contributed to this report.