IDF Ends Gaza Probe, Says Misconduct Claims Are 'Rumors'

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Haaretz (Israel)

IDF Ends Gaza Probe, Says Misconduct Claims Are 'Rumors'

by
Anshel Pfeffer and Amos Harel

Israeli soldiers patrol near the Gaza border, January 2009. The Israeli military closed an investigation into soldiers' accounts of the killing of civilians during the war in Gaza, calling the accounts inaccurate and "based on hearsay." (AFP/File/Dmitry Kostyukov)

Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit on Monday instructed the Military Police Investigation unit to close the investigation into soldiers' accounts of alleged misconduct and serious violations of the army's rules of engagement during Operation Cast Lead.

In a press release issued Monday the army said that the preliminary Military Police investigation into the testimonies revealed that they "were based on rumors and not first-hand experience."

However, the Military Advocate General's announcement does not address testimonies published by the Associated Press on Friday that corroborate soldiers' accounts with testimonies given by Palestinians.

The probe was launched earlier this month after IDF soldiers were quoted as telling a military cadet academy that combat troops in Gaza fired at unarmed Palestinian civilians and vandalized property during Operation Cast Lead. The army has barred those soldiers from speaking to the press.

The testimonies include a description by an infantry squad leader of an incident where an IDF sharpshooter mistakenly shot a Palestinian mother and her two children. "There was a house with a family inside .... We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof," the soldier said.

Another squad leader from the same brigade told of an incident where the company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman be shot and killed; she was walking on a road about 100 meters from a house the company had commandeered.

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