There were no Gaza war crimes, claim IDF

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 22, 2009

The Israel Defence Force has denied all allegations of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, in a detailed 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, who presented the report.

"The dozens of incidents we investigated prove that the IDF acted throughout the operation, in accordance with international law and abided by the highest moral and professional standards."

The report, compiled by five colonels who were not involved in the operation, deals with accusations made by the media and NGOs regarding alleged war crimes and irregular actions by IDF soldiers. In a handful of cases, the IDF admits that "operational mistakes" were made which lead to the death of civilians.

One operational mistake was the bombing of a house in Gaza which lead to the death of 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 before the attack.

The aircraft which carried out the attack had received the wrong coordinates which lead to the accident. "We carried out 1400 aerial bombings," explained a senior IDF officer, "and this was a regrettable mistake but these things happen in warfare." In another case, IDF surveillance mistakenly identified gas canisters on a lorry as medium-range Grad missiles. Eight Palestinians, including four civilians were killed in the attack.

The report denied reports that dozens of civilians had been killed and wounded by phosphorous bombs. According to the IDF, two kinds of phosphorous bombs had been used for "aiming purposes" but only in non-populated areas and a third type of bomb had been used to create smoke-screens but that this bomb, was of type used by many Western armies and did not create severe burns.

The report examined the demolition of building during the operation. Ground forces demolished 636 buildings (not including those attacked from the air) according to the report, 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, or had been demolished to make way for convoys or because they posed a threat to the forces.

The report also maintains that no United Nations buildings or vehicles and medical facilities or personnel were intentionally fired upon.

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."

Last updated: 5:00pm, April 23 2009