Israeli Forces 'Can't Clear Themselves'

Published on
by
The Age (Australia)

Israeli Forces 'Can't Clear Themselves'

by
Jason Koutsoukis

A Palestinian approaches a flare on a main street in Gaza City, January 2009. Human Rights Watch has said that the Israeli army's investigation of troop conduct during its war on Gaza appeared to be an attempt to cover up "violations of the laws of war. "(AFP/File/Mahmud Hams)

GAZA CITY - A coalition of Jewish and Arab human rights groups have criticised as inadequate an Israel Defence Forces investigation into its activities during the January offensive in Gaza.

The IDF's internal investigation found that no Palestinian civilians were harmed intentionally by IDF soldiers during the 23-day offensive, which killed more than 1300 Palestinians and wounded more than 4000.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak hailed the report as further proof of the IDF's moral stature.

"The IDF is not afraid to investigate itself and, in that, prove that its operations are ethical," Mr Barak said.

When civilians were killed by IDF fire, the report found that this resulted from operational mistakes that were "bound to happen during intensive fighting".

But a coalition of Israeli human rights groups, which includes B'Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, Yesh Din, The Public Committee Against Torture and Rabbis for Human Rights, said the only way to truly investigate alleged war crimes was through an independent inquiry.

"Military investigation results published today refer to tens of innocent Palestinian civilians killed by 'rare mishaps' in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead," they said in a joint statement.

"However, data collected by Israeli human rights organisations shows that many civilians were killed in Gaza not due to 'mishaps' but as a direct result of the military's chosen policy implemented throughout the fighting.

"If the military claims that there were no major deficiencies in its conduct in Gaza, it is not clear why Israel refuses to co-operate with the UN investigation team, which requests an investigation of alleged violations of international law by both Israel and Hamas."

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza also called on Israel to co-operate with the UN investigation team.

The IDF inquiry was conducted by officers not involved in Operation Cast Lead and focused on reports of civilians who been targeted intentionally, and also attacks on civilian infrastructure, UN facilities and the use of white phosphorus.

It said the worst example of mistaken fire was an attack on a family home in Gaza City's Zeitoun district, which killed 21 members of the same family.

According to the IDF, their deaths were the result of an equipment malfunction.

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