More Than 18 Months After Gaza War, IDF Still Investigating Eight Suspected War Crimes Cases

Three of the eight were prompted by testimonies published by Breaking the Silence, but NGO refuses to identify witnesses, who testified on condition of anonymity.

Reuters

More than 18 months after Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s Military Police are still investigating eight incidents as possible war crimes.

The Military Police launched over 30 investigations after the 2014 military operation. Some were later closed by the Israel Defense Force, one led to the indictments of Golani Brigade soldiers for looting and eight are still being pursued.

Three of the eight were prompted by testimonies published by Breaking the Silence. In July the army weekly Bamahane reported that the army had begun investigating the incidents described in eight eyewitness accounts featured in a report from the organization.

This means the IDF closed five of the investigations opened following Breaking the Silence testimonies of suspected violations of laws during wartime conduct. The three cases still being probed include alleged unjustified shooting at Palestinians. 

A senior military police officer told reporters on Wednesday that the military police don’t check where the complaints about soldiers who committed criminal offenses during war come from, but look into every complaint they get, regardless of its source.

The State Prosecutor’s Office asked the court earlier this month to order Breaking the Silence to identify the witnesses and give the IDF details of reported events. The NGO refuses to identify the witnesses, who testified on condition of anonymity. The request is conducted behind closed doors in the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court.

This week the Military Police published a summary of the past year’s activities. The number of investigations opened on suspicion of sexual offenses in the army in 2015 is 125, the same as it was in 2014. However, the number of rape complaints has risen compared to previous years. According to the figures, 12 inquiries were opened following rape complaints, the highest number in the last six years. Last year there were 8 complaints and before that 4-6.

The Military Police opened some 4,200 investigations in 2015, mostly for drug trafficking and other drug-related offenses.

The Military Advocate General’s Office is examining a possible reform in the army’s policy toward soldiers who use drugs while on leave.

“The IDF cannot and will not allow any manner of drug use. Using drugs is a destructive offense,” a Military Police officer said.

Outgoing Military Advocate General Maj. Gen.  Danny Efroni said in the past that he recommends not charging soldiers for light drug offenses. “It’s not about legalizing drugs, but about a new approach that emphasizes rehabilitating soldiers and providing an incentive to return to productive military service,” he said in an interview.

Last year there were 67 incident of stolen weapons in the army, most of them perpetrated by soldiers. Regarding the Speaking of the Chief of Staff’s order to enable soldiers to take their weapon with them when they go on leave, the officer said “access to weapons raises the probability of stealing it.”