Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the IDF Wednesday for the report probing civilian deaths during January's offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The IDF's investigation, he said, "proved once more that the IDF is one of the most ethical militaries in the world."
Knesset members from the Left and various human rights groups drew very different conclusions from the report however, and criticized the fact that the military investigated itself.
The IDF inquest concluded that no Palestinian civilians were targeted during Operation Cast Lead, but admitted to several operational malfunctions which resulted in civilian deaths.
"The IDF's report does not account for all cases of civilian deaths, and does little to change the fact that too many red lines were crossed during Operation Cast Lead," said Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron.
"The norms saying innocent people cannot be harmed mustn’t be blurred. That wouldn't just be a slippery slope, it would open up an abyss."
Fellow Meretz MK Ilan Ghilon added that "calling the killing of 295 civilians 'an operational malfunction' is a cynical perception of human life."
Hadash Chairman Mohammad Barakeh said the report "blinds (the public) to Israel's war crimes in Gaza. War crimes have to be accounted for and mistakes that lead to war crimes must be accounted for as well.
"The military is not a research center, it's part of the system which carried out these crimes and it serves a role in covering them up. Those responsible will have to account for their actions – from the man at the top of the pyramid down to the last soldier."
MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) added that "if hundreds of civilians were accidentally killed it's a war crime; but if they were killed under the Israeli law it's twice as bad. The IDF's report cannot be lent any credibility, since it's reputation is already that of an army that kills, whines and covers up. It's no wonder the IDF is refusing to cooperate with the UN's investigation."
Human rights groups B'Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Yesh Din and the Public Committee Against Torture issued a joint statement following the release of the report, reading as follows:
"The military investigation published today refers to dozens of innocent Palestinian civilians killed by 'rare mishaps' in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. However, data collected by Israeli human rights organization shows that many civilians were killed in Gaza not due to 'mishaps' but as a direct result of the military’s chosen policy implemented throughout the fighting.
"The only way to investigate violations of human rights committed in Gaza is by establishing an external, extra-military investigation mechanism. If the military claims that there were no major deficiencies in its conduct in Gaza, it is not clear why Israel refuses to cooperate with the UN investigation team, led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone, which requests an investigation of alleged violations of international law by both Israel and Hamas."
Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to this report