State Comptroller Joseph Shapira has decided to examine the decision-making process and oversight mechanisms employed by the country’s political and military leadership before and during Operation Protective Edge, the Israel Defense Forces operation launched last month against Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip.
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Shapira announced his decision on Wednesday against the backdrop of allegations that Israel violated international law in its conduct of the hostilities in Gaza, noting that he had received dozens of complaints and inquiries regarding the military operation. Up to now, Israel had refrained from announcing a probe of its own into the IDF’s conduct in Gaza, in part because it has not been clear whether the cease-fire in effect this week will be extended.
Shapira’s inquiry does not preclude Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ordering the convening of a separate investigative commission into the Gaza operation.
After human rights organizations sought information from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein about oversight of the IDF amid suspicions of Israeli violations of international law in Gaza, Weinstein said even legal and proportionate attacks carried out in accordance with international law could cause unintentional harm to civilians and their property. The organizations called upon the attorney general to set up an independent oversight mechanism to look into the decision making on the political and military levels. In response, Weinstein said that oversight mechanisms already exist within the IDF and the Justice Ministry, and promised that any complaint regarding the IDF’s conduct would be appropriately addressed.
The state comptroller said his own investigation would be carried out with an eye both to international law and the rulings of Israel’s Supreme Court, as well as the conclusions of prior official commissions, including one that had examined oversight mechanisms in place in Israel to handle complaints of violations of the international laws of war. That panel had also set guidelines based on which the system was to function.
Shapira recently announced that his office would examine how the army had dealt with the threat from attack tunnels that Hamas had built under the Gaza border into Israel. And at the beginning of the operation last month, after two Israeli Bedouin girls were injured in a rocket attack from Gaza, Shapira also ordered an investigation into the lack of civil defense shelters in unrecognized Bedouin communities in the south. On Wednesday, he noted that this investigation would be expanded to look into how civilians can be better protected, what more should be done to develop warning systems and public information efforts to protect civilians in areas along the border.
The State Comptroller’s visit was coordinated with the prime minister. Shapira spoke with Netanyahu recently about his decision to begin investigating conduct pertaining to the tunnels in Gaza, and informed him that the investigation could likely cover other issues related to the operation.