Israeli Reservists Demand End to Army’s Criminal Probe of Gaza War

At least 250 reserve officers and combat soldiers sign letter, saying only commanders should be allowed to probe allegations of criminal misconduct in wartime.

Palestinian boys in Gaza City, January 4, 2015.
Palestinian boys ride a horse cart past the remains of houses that witnesses said were destoyed by Israeli shelling in Operation Protective Edge, in Gaza City on January 4, 2015. Reuters

About 100 reserve officers and dozens of reserve combat solders and noncommissioned officers in the Israel Defense Forces have signed a letter asking Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz to halt criminal investigations of the conduct of soldiers and officers during the military operation in the Gaza Strip this summer.

The letter was the initiative of the nonprofit organization Consensus, Warriors for Warriors. It argues that “investigations regarding judgment under fire or when life is at risk must be conducted by commanders” and not by the Military Police or the Military Advocate General Corps.

Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni has ordered investigations into 13 “exceptional incidents that allegedly occurred during Operation Protective Edge,” according to the MAG Corps website.

They include five alleged incidents of looting by soldiers, two alleged incidents in which ambulance drivers were killed, and two alleged incidents of Palestinian noncombatants being used as “human shields.”

One incident under investigation is the July 24 Israeli air strike of a UN Relief and Works Agency school in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip in which 15 civilians were killed, according to Palestinian reports. Hundreds of internal refugees were using the school as a shelter at the time.

Investigations have been ordered into a July 16 air strike that allegedly killed four Palestinian children on the beach in near Gaza City and a July 20 air strike on the home of the Abu Jama family in Khan Yunis, in which 27 civilians allegedly died.

Also being investigated is an incident in which a woman was shot to death in the area of Dahaniyeh, despite her presence in the area having apparently been coordinated with the IDF.

Most of the investigations were ordered in the wake of preliminary examinations by a General Staff Mechanism for Fact-Finding Assessments, headed by Maj. Gen. Noam Tibon and including six teams of experts.

“It is intolerable to contemplate such a pattern of behavior that threatens the spirit of the fighters, the strength of the IDF and confidence in its commanders,” the letter said, hinting at a possible criminal investigation into the events of “Black Friday” (battles in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 1, in which three soldiers and at least 130 Palestinians were killed in Israeli efforts to thwart the abduction of an officer).

Speaking last week, Gantz said the IDF’s soldiers and officers receive “full command-level support … and if someone deviated and committed serious and forbidden acts, we will deal with that, too. We will investigate, and where necessary we will complete the process with [criminal] investigations.”