IDF to Tighten Policy of Probes Into Civilian West Bank Deaths

New policy will apparently make it necessary to bring all instances of civilian Palestinian death for immediate criminal investigation, unless such an incident occurred during 'operation of clearly combative nature'.

The Israel Defense Forces is expected to announce next week changes to its policy of investigating military action in the Palestinian territories, as a result of a relative calm in the area and pressure stemming from the international arena.

The IDF will inform the high-ranking Turkel Commission of the changes next week, but has already clarified some of its new policies in a statement to the High Court of Justice.

IDF troops - Tomer Appelbaum
Tomer Appelbaum

According to the new policy, incidents in which a Palestinian civilian is killed by IDF fire will be brought to the army's criminal investigation division for immediate investigation, unless the deaths occurred within the realm of an "operation of clearly combative nature".

Until now, civilian deaths in the Palestinian territory were brought for investigation only after an initial fact-checking usually carried out through operational inquiry.

The change in IDF policy comes in the wake of both a more calm security situation in the West Bank as well as due to international criticism launched at Israel over their current investigative policies that have been deemed insufficient.

In October of 2000, at the start of the second intifada, the Military Advocate General determined that a criminal investigation into IDF activity would only be opened in instances where a criminal offense was suspected.

This precedent has been utilized as an explanation for not carrying out investigations into combat situations, and has been widely criticized by leftist and international human rights groups.

It is expected that this new investigation policy will only apply in the West Bank and will not apply to Gaza.

The policy was created by Military Advocate General Brigadier General Avichai Mendelblatt along with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. The two will appear separately before the Turkel committee next week to discuss the new policy.