Israeli Military to Launch Probe Into Gaza Border Deaths

IDF chief of staff ordered probe, expected to focus on civilian casualties, including death of Palestinian photographer Yaser Murtaja

Mortally wounded Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja, 31, is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops at the Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip  April 6, 2018

The Israeli mlitary will launch an inquiry into the conduct of troops in the recent incidents on the Gaza Strip border, in which several protesters were killed by sniper fire. The investigation is to be headed by Brig. Gen. Moti Baruch, head of the General Staff's Doctrine and Training Division.

The military has not yet decided how many of the deaths are to be probed, but it appears that the probe will center on incidents in which the casualties were civilians, including the death on Friday of Palestinian photographer Yaser Murtaja.

The army claimed after the initial incidents that most of the Palestinians who had been killed were operatives in the military wings of Hamas and other terror groups. 

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot decided to launch the probe after consulting Military Advocate General Sharon Afek.

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The protocol used to launch the probe was used after Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, when Israel examined incidents in which a large number of Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli fire.

As in that case, the probe is not criminal but rather operational, and upon its conclusion the findings are to be presented to the military advocate general, who may decide whether to open a criminal investigation.

Several incidents were probed after Operation Protective Edge, but no criminal action was taken against commanders involved in any of the incidents. 

The IDF recently conducted a detailed operational probe into the circumstances of the death of a protester, Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, a double amputee, in December. A military police criminal investigation was subsequently launched, and sharpshooters were questioned caution.

Nine Palestinians were killed during Friday’s demonstrations, with almost 300 wounded, all by live fire. The total number of dead over the last two weekends has reached 29. The Palestinians reported that all of Friday’s fatalities were civilians and that one was a journalist. Israel hasn’t yet released information linking casualties to the armed wings of Hamas and other groups.