Israel won’t pursue criminal charges despite damning Gaza report

Published Thursday 09/05/2013 (updated) 11/05/2013 18:50
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) — The Israeli army said Wednesday it has found no incidents warranting criminal investigations into the conduct of its soldiers during Operation Pillars of Defense, despite a report suggesting its inquiry was lacking. 

The army's comments follow reports by Israeli rights group B'Tselem that the army had failed to investigate cases of civilian deaths sufficiently, particularly those where it found the military may have been in violation of international law. 

"Because the military refuses to provide real information about incidents in which Palestinians who did not take part in the hostilities were harmed, B’Tselem is unable to investigate the lawfulness of each and every military strike during the operation," a report issued Thursday by the rights group read. 

In response to the report, the army said the majority of civilian deaths "were as a result of unintended damage connected to an attack against military targets, or alternatively were as a result of operational errors, where civilians were mistakenly identified as terrorist operatives." 

B'Tselem found that in some cases, investigations into civilian deaths were not carried out. In response to requests, the army said “no suspicion of a criminal offense or a well-founded suspicion of violation of laws of war by any military entity had been found,” the rights group reported. 

Some responses were given without accompanying evidence or information to support the army's conclusion. 

In some cases, conflicting reports were issued by the Israeli army, such as the strike on Dalou family, in which 12 family members died, including five children. 

The military initially stated that it had attacked the head of the Hamas rocket division; a later report indicated that the person attacked was simply an active member of the rocket division; a few hours later, the military announced that it had “probably” erred in identifying the appropriate house.

"It remains unclear what the military did to ensure that the targeted site was clear of civilians. Secondly, no explanation is given as
to how, despite the military’s purported efforts, the attack resulted in such severe casualties," B'Tselem wrote. 

According to B'Tselem, 167 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military during the operation, of which 87 were civilians, including 31 minors. The majority of civilians killed during the attack were aged between 18 and 55. The rights group also found that nearly four times as many civilians were killed during the last few days of the attack.

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