IDF Officer Suspected of 'Burying' Probe Into Gaza Death

A lieutenant colonel who served as a battalion commander with the Givati infantry brigade during Operation Cast Lead is being investigated by the Military Police for allegedly "burying" a probe into the killing of a Palestinian civilian in Gaza City.

Military Police are trying to determine if and why the battalion commander and other officers in Givati did not pass the findings of the probe onto their superiors and the Military Advocate General.

A Central Command military tribunal in Jaffa held a hearing yesterday in the trial of Staff Sergeant (res. ) S.H., who served in combat as a soldier in Givati's Rotem battalion during Operation Cast Lead. S.H. is accused of killing a Palestinian noncombatant.

According to information given to the tribunal - which was confirmed by representatives of the Military Advocate General's office - the battalion conducted a probe toward the end of Operation Cast Lead with the approval of Lt. Col. Yehuda Hacohen. However, the findings were not passed along to more senior officers in the Southern Command and the Military Advocate General.

The oversight was discovered in March 2009 by a reserve officer who found a document stored in the memory of an IDF computer titled "Routine Event - Killing of an Innocent Woman During Operation Cast Lead."

The reserve officer did not report the existence of the file, which contained the probe, for eight months. In December 2009, the officer sent a letter to high-ranking officers in the Givati brigade, Southern Command and the Military Advocate General's office.

Pangs of conscience

In the letter, the officer said he wrestled with his conscience following the publication of the Goldstone report.

The letter prompted the IDF to bring manslaughter charges against S.H. and to launch a probe into why the original investigation conducted by the battalion was not passed on to more senior levels within the army.