Military Advocate General: No One Culpable for 2006 Beit Hanun Shelling

Errant IDF shells killed 21 Palestinian civilians in Nov. 2006; IDF: Technical malfunction to blame.

Military Advocate General Brigadier General Avihai Mandelblit ruled Monday that there is no justification to investigate the November 2006 incident in which errant Israel Defense Forces shells killed 21 Palestinians in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun.

Immediately following the event, the IDF explained that an artillery battery containing 12 shells, aimed at a site from where Qassam rockets had been fired, had accidentally hit civilian homes some 500 meters from the intended target.

The IDF later maintained that the decision to fire the artillery was based on founded and reliable intelligence indicating that additional rockets were going to be fired from the site. An IDF query revealed that the civilian deaths stemmed from a rare malfunction in the control equipment which caused errors in the data used to aim the artillery fire.

Following the incident, then-chief of staff Dan Halutz appointed a committee, led by former Deputy Head of the Ground Forces Command, Major General Meir Califfee, to investigate the circumstances of the deaths. Following an extensive and thorough investigation, Mandelblit decided that the facts regarding the incident, presented by the committee, were detailed and clear, and that consequently there was no need to launch a Military Police investigation into the matter. It was also decided that no legal action was to be taken against any military official in regard to this incident.

The Military Advocate General (MAG) ruled that the Palestinian deaths did not result from negligence, and therefore there was no justification to take disciplinary measures against them.