The Turkel Commission, Part 2 — new recommendations to improve Israel's military investigations

International law professor Aeyal Gross has written in Haaretz that, in its Part 2 report which was presented to Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, “The Turkel committee made 18 recommendations in an effort to improve the mechanisms through which investigations of IDF conduct are carried out. In principle, the committee noted, existing procedure complies with the requirements of international law, although there are certain areas in which there is room for improvement, including actual change in policy”.

That was an understatement. But, it was just the beginning. Aeyal Gross added that “The recommendations are designed to improve investigation procedures in the future, the committee said, and should not be construed as suggesting that the manner in which investigations have been carried out up to now, including the IDF’s investigation of the flotilla incident, was flawed. On the positive side, among the newly released recommendations were those relating to the need to explicitly integrate into Israeli law the rules regarding war crimes and to pass a law that imposes responsibility on IDF commanders and their civilian superiors for violations committed by those who report to them. That responsibility arises when the commanders or their superiors do not take reasonable steps to prevent those violations or do not act to bring those who committed such acts to justice. Those two recommendations are consistent with what international law requires”. This is published here.

Continue reading The Turkel Commission, Part 2 — new recommendations to improve Israel's military investigations

Scathing response to IDF decision from Haaretz's Amos Harel

Amos Harel, the military correspondent of Haaretz who broke the story about what IDF soldiers said in a post-war group discussion at the Oranim military academy near Haifa, wrote a scathing response to the IDF announcement that it had finished its investigation and determined that the soldiers’ accounts were based on “rumors” and “hearsay” – and were “purposely exaggerated and made extreme, in order to make a point with the participants of the conference”.

Please note that the IDF soldiers involved did not speak to the media.

Interestingly, the IDF statement yesterday also said that  — apparently during the IDF investigation .. “the participants at the Rabin Center said that they had based their claims relating to the use of phosphorous munitions on what they had heard in the media and not on their personal knowledge”.

From Sic Semper Tyrannis - 29 or 30 March 2009

Continue reading Scathing response to IDF decision from Haaretz's Amos Harel

"What were 100 bulldozers going to do there?" – Yet IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, who is in overall charge of investigating conduct of war in Gaza, announced that he does not believe there was misconduct

Haaretz’s military correspondent Amos Harel has just published another article supporting claims of grave misconduct during the IDF Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

He wrote, in the article published on Friday, that “GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant’s meticulous planning for Operation Cast Lead was mapped out to the last detail … [But] … The General Staff expected that Israelis would have trouble accepting heavy Israel Defense Forces losses. The army chose to overcome this problem with an aggressive plan that included overwhelming firepower. The forces, it was decided, would advance into the urban areas behind a ‘rolling curtain’ of aerial and artillery fire, backed up by intelligence from unmanned aircraft and the Shin Bet. The lives of our soldiers take precedence, the commanders were told in briefings. Before the operation, Galant and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi painted a bleak picture for the cabinet ministers. ‘Unlike in Lebanon, the civilians in Gaza won’t have many places to escape to’, Ashkenazi warned. ‘When an armored force enters the city, shells will fly, because we’ll have to protect our people’. The politicians promised backing. Two weeks before the incursion, a member of the General Staff, talking to a journalist, predicted that 600-800 Palestinians civilians would be killed in an Israeli operation.

Continue reading "What were 100 bulldozers going to do there?" – Yet IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, who is in overall charge of investigating conduct of war in Gaza, announced that he does not believe there was misconduct

"Permissive rules of engagement" – cont'd

The weekend edition of Haaretz contains a fuller account of what Israeli soldiers and pilots say they actually did in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Amos Harel wrote in a long article, entitled “Shooting and Crying“, giving greater details than previously published on statements made at a meeting attended by dozens of combat soldiers and officers who graduated from the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory program at Oranim Academic College in Kiryat Tivon.

This article puts into context the outrageous statement, below, from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs — which is still posted on the MFA’s website: “To Israel’s great sorrow, innocent civilians in Gaza have been harmed. However, the figures of civilian casualties have been greatly exaggerated. Most of these figures come from Hamas sources, amplifying the number of civilians killed by including as ‘children’ teenage Hamas fighters and as ‘women’, female terrorists. According to an Israeli investigation, of the 1,100-1,200 reported casualties, 250 were civilians. The rest are believed to be terrorists or have yet to be identified, but given that most of them are young men in their 20s, it is not unreasonable to assume that they are also members of Hamas or other terrorist organizations“. This disgraceful piece of propaganda can be read in full here.

Amos Harel article wrote:
“Following are extensive excerpts from the transcript of the meeting, as it appears in the program’s bulletin, Briza, which was published on Wednesday. The names of the soldiers have been changed to preserve their anonymity. The editors have also left out some of the details concerning the identity of the units that operated in a problematic way in Gaza … The program’s founder, Danny Zamir, still heads it today and also serves as deputy battalion commander in a reserve unit …

Danny Zamir [to the soldiers}: “I don’t intend for us to evaluate the achievements and the diplomatic-political significance of Operation Cast Lead this evening, nor need we deal with the systemic military aspect [of it]. However, discussion is necessary because this was, all told, an exceptional war action in terms of the history of the IDF, which has set new limits for the army’s ethical code and that of the State of Israel as a whole. This is an action that sowed massive destruction among civilians. It is not certain that it was possible do have done it differently, but ultimately we have emerged from this operation and are not facing real paralysis from the Qassams. It is very possible that we will repeat such an operation on a larger scale in the years to come, because the problem in the Gaza Strip is not simple and it is not at all certain that it has been solved. What we want this evening is to hear from the fighters”.

Aviv: “I am squad commander of a company that is still in training, from the Givati Brigade. We went into a neighborhood in the southern part of Gaza City. Altogether, this is a special experience. In the course of the training, you wait for the day you will go into Gaza, and in the end it isn’t really like they say it is … Toward the end of the operation there was a plan to go into a very densely populated area inside Gaza City itself. In the briefings they started to talk to us about orders for opening fire inside the city, because as you know they used a huge amount of firepower and killed a huge number of people along the way, so that we wouldn’t get hurt and they wouldn’t fire on us. At first the specified action was to go into a house. We were supposed to go in with an armored personnel carrier called an Achzarit [literally, Cruel] to burst through the lower door, to start shooting inside and then … I call this murder … in effect, we were supposed to go up floor by floor, and any person we identified – we were supposed to shoot. I initially asked myself: Where is the logic in this? From above they said it was permissible, because anyone who remained in the sector and inside Gaza City was in effect condemned, a terrorist, because they hadn’t fled…
Continue reading "Permissive rules of engagement" – cont'd