Military: Case on soldiers' testimonies closed
Military Police rule soldiers who testified that innocent people were targeted during Operation Cast Lead relied on hearsay, exaggerated descriptions of events. 'It seems that it will be difficult to measure damage these statements incurred on IDF's image in Israel and world,' says head military prosecutor. Rights groups suspicious of speed at which case closed
The testimonies were made during a forum at the Rabin pre-Military Academy at Oranim about a month and a half ago, and resonated throughout media channels when they were published about two weeks ago. The military advocate general's decision was made after the Military Police didn't find evidence supporting acts of the sort described in the testimonies.
Investigations showed that a decisive portion of the testimonies revolved around two incidents in which there were suspicions that civilians were fired upon. The Military Police's investigation revealed that the reports were made on the basis of rumors and hearsay, and not as a result of first-hand knowledge. The military advocate general established that there was no evidence supporting these claims in the field.
The investigation also ruled that the soldiers who testified at the military academy exaggerated their recounts, making them sound more extreme than they were. For instance, in the claim that an order was allegedly given to shoot at an adult Palestinian woman, "the soldier 'Aviv' made it clear that he was not actually on location during the event, but that he presented the story on the basis of a rumor, even though the IDF had investigated the incident."
'None of speakers exercised caution'
The IDF's investigation of the aforementioned incident showed that soldiers opened fire at a woman who was suspected of being a suicide bomber and had come within a few yards of the IDF forces in the Strip after the soldiers had warned her not to approach.
Another soldier, known in the file as "Ram", who also was not witness to the event, testified that fire was opened on a Palestinian woman. The Military Police investigation revealed in the said incident fire was opened at two suspicious men.
"It is sorrowful that none of the speakers exercised caution while presenting their claims. Furthermore, the soldiers chose to present factual situations of a serious nature, even though they were aware of the fact that they have no first-hand experience of them," said Maj. Gen. Mandelblit.
"It seems that it will be difficult to measure the damage these statements incurred on the image and ethics of the IDF and its soldiers in Israel and throughout the world," Mandelblit continued.
The investigation also looked into other issues raised in during the testimonies, such as the alleged illegal use of phosphorus bombs. Here, too, it was revealed that the soldiers relied on media reports, and not on first-hand experience.
Human rights groups in Israel leveled criticism at the Military Advocate General Mandelblit's decision to close the case investigating testimonies given by IDF soldiers regarding intentional targeting of innocent civilians during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.
"The speed with which the military advocate general closed the case arouses suspicion that the investigation was not intended to thoroughly examine the facts, but to relieve the military of responsibility. Investigation officials ignored much material that was collected since the end of the operation that paint a similar picture to the one painted by the soldiers' testimonies. This only strengthens the need to establish an independent body to investigate all of the army's activities," wrote the organizations.