IDF Closes Probes of Alleged Crimes, Some Involving Civilian Deaths, in 2014 Gaza War

Military prosecution cites lack of criminal evidence in over a dozen incidents, but opens criminal investigations into six alleged incidents.

Palestinians atop a destroyed car in August 2014, in the Gaza town of Rafah, a site of heavy fighting in the two-month war.
Khalil Hamra/AP

The Israeli military prosecution has closed its investigations into several incidents in which Palestinian civilians were killed during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Without mentioning Breaking the Silence by name, the press release from the Military Advocate General Corps announcing the decision cites a report by a nongovernmental organization that made “anonymous allegations” regarding dozens of “exceptional incidents that were alleged to have occurred” during the war. The statement said the allegations regarding the majority of the incidents cited in the report were insufficiently concrete to establish reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct.

But MAG also said that criminal investigations had been opened into six alleged incidents from the unnamed NGO’s report.

One of the cases that was closed without a criminal investigation was the August 1 aerial strike on a home in Rafah that killed 15 civilians. MAG said in the statement that the building “was an active command and control center of the Hamas terror organization” and that a disproportionate number of civilian casualties had not been anticipated.

“In practice, it became clear in the wake of the strike that there had been discrepancies between the information on the basis of which the strike was carried out and the facts which were revealed in its wake,” MAG said in the statement, adding that the attack was carried out properly based on the information the forces had in real time.

Some of the people who died in the strike lived in the home, while others were visitors.

MAG said a military figure who had been a target of the attack was among the fatalities. “It was further found, that contrary to the claims made by various entities, the strike was not connected to the efforts to locate Capt. Hadar Goldin, who was kidnapped and killed by Hamas forces on that morning, but rather constituted part of the ongoing military operations that were being undertaken in the Rafah area at that time.” 

In another case, in which between seven and 15 civilians were reported killed near a school in Rafah, MAG said the strike was aimed at three militants on a motorbike. When the vehicle changed its course, the army did not detect civilians outside the school. The army said it wasn’t possible to divert the ammunition being fired at the motorcycle after it turned.

MAG also decided after an investigation to close two cases of looting without initiating legal proceedings. In one case there was no evidence of soldiers having been in the home. In the second, a commander said he hid 2,500 shekels that he found so that the money wouldn’t be stolen.

The main “Black Friday” events in Rafah are not mentioned in the statement.

After Goldin’s capture and following Givati Brigade operations in the area, there were complaints of disproportionate action and that dozens of innocent Palestinians were killed as a result.

MAG has not yet decided whether to open a full investigation to inquire into Israel Defense Forces actions in Rafah, or to state whether there were any suspected criminal violations that would require such an investigation.

Then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon believed that a full military investigation was not warranted.

Since Operation Protective Edge, there have been reports of some 360 outstanding incidents during IDF operations in the Gaza Strip. Only in one case have soldiers been indicted, for looting and helping to loot during Golani Brigade operations in Shujaiyeh.

In another case first reported by Haaretz, a decision was made to take administrative rather than legal steps to resolve allegations against Lt. Col. Neria Yeshurun, who was reprimanded for ordering tanks to shell a building “in memory of” a brigade officer who had been killed.