The Israel Defence Force has denied all allegations of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, in a report published on Wednesday.
“We have not found even one case in which an Israeli soldier intentionally aimed and fired at innocent civilians,” said IDF deputy chief of staff, Major General, Dan Harel. “The IDF acted in accordance with international law and abided by the highest moral and professional standards.”
The report deals with accusations made by the media and NGOs of war crimes and irregular actions by IDF soldiers. In a handful of cases, the IDF admits that “operational mistakes” led to the death of civilians.
One was the bombing of a house in Gaza which killed 21 members of one family. The IDF investigation found that an adjacent house, where arms were stored, had been targeted, and its inhabitants warned to leave the building. The aircraft which carried out the attack received the wrong coordinates.
“We carried out 1400 aerial bombings,” explained a senior IDF officer. “This was a regrettable mistake but these things happen in warfare.”
The report denied claims that dozens of civilians were killed and wounded by phosphorous bombs. According to the IDF, two kinds of phosphorous bombs were used for “aiming purposes”, but only in non-populated areas. A third type of bomb created smoke-screens, but this was used by other armies and did not cause severe burns.
The report also examined the demolition of buildings during the operation. Ground forces demolished 636 buildings — more were attacked from the air — and “that number is proportional to the use of these buildings by Hamas”, said a senior officer. The IDF claims that all the buildings demolished had been used by Hamas, were knocked down to make way for convoys or posed a threat to the forces.
The report also maintains that no United Nations buildings or vehicles and medical facilities or personnel were fired upon intentionally.
Major General Harel stressed that “most of the mistakes were the result of the fact that we faced an enemy that chose to put civilians in the line of fire”.