Shortly after Operation Protective Edge, the IDF (Zahal) established a fact-finding assessment mechanism, which attested to its continued commitment to the rule of law and international obligations.
In accordance with the IDF (Zahal) Military Advocate General’s (the ‘MAG’) policy to ensure transparency with regard to the examination and investigation of exceptional incidents that allegedly occurred during Operation Protective Edge, and further to the first update on this issue provided in a Press Release dated 10 September 2014, additional information has been cleared for publication concerning decisions the MAG reached with regard to several individual incidents.
Following the IDF (Zahal) commitment to review, investigate and examine exceptional incidents reported during and after operation Protective Edge, the Military Advocate General, Major General Danny Efroni, has announced that the IDF (Zahal) will carry out eight additional criminal investigations. Three following the Fact Finding Assessment Mechanism and five based on the MAG decision in incidents that did not require further examination by the FFAM. These investigations are pursuant to the existing five that have previously been announced. Also, General Efroni reviewed, decided and approved for publication specific information on the findings and materials of seven alleged reports of fault in conduct of IDF (Zahal) forces. General Efroni did not find that the forces’ actions in these reported incidents appeared to substantiate reasonable grounds for suspicion of criminal behavior, and therefore there is no basis for an investigation. This is in addition to two cases closed and the specific information that has been published and previously reported. The information regarding all of the specific incidents has been approved here for publication.
Allegations with regard to approximately 100 incidents have been referred by the MAG for examination by the FFAM. Approximately 85 of incidents are currently under various stages of review.
Below is an example of an incident concerning a case closed by the MAG following a Fact-Finding Assessment by the FFAM.
Allegation Concerning Two Female Casualties at the ‘Alambra Association’ in Bet Lehia (12 July 2014)
According to correspondence and reports from various NGOs, on 12 July 2014, two women were killed and four others injured as a result of an IDF (Zahal) aerial strike on a care centre for the mentally and physically disabled, belonging to the ‘Alambra Association’, in Beit Lehia. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM.
According to the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, the strike was directed at a weapons depot located inside the residential home of a senior Hamas commander, in a building comprising of four apartments. While the operating forces were aware of the existence of a kindergarten in the same building, close to the weapons depot, there was no information indicating the existence of a care center.
Prior to the attack a number of precautionary measures were undertaken in order to minimize potential civilian harm – including several attempts to telephone the residents of the building and the firing of two warning projectiles towards the structure (as part of the ‘knock on the roof’ procedure). No reaction was identified by the residents, and no presence of persons at the site was discerned prior to the attack. As an additional precaution, the attack was carried out late at night, in order to avoid any possible harm to children attending the kindergarten during the day.
The findings further indicated that at the time the attack was decided upon, the operational assessment concluded that, as none of the precautionary measures resulted in any response, no civilians were present and no civilians were expected to be harmed as a result of the attack.
In light of these factual findings, the MAG found that the targeting process followed in this case accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The attack was directed against a military objective, while adhering to the requirements of the principle of proportionality, and the decision to attack was made by the authorities authorized to do so. Further, the MAG found that the attack was carried out after a number of precautions were undertaken intended to minimize the potential for civilian harm, and that the professional assessment at the time of the attack – that civilians would not be harmed as a result of the attack – was not unreasonable under the circumstances. Although seemingly civilians were harmed as a result of the attack, this is indeed a regrettable result, but it does not affect its legality post facto.
In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF (Zahal) forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident.