IDF soldiers leave Gaza following operation (archives)
While Israel is being pressured to form a stance in regards to an investigation into last winter's military operation in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces is thoroughly investigating criminal aspects in its fighters' conduct.
Ynet has learned that the Investigating Military Police has begun summoning soldiers who fought in Gaza for interrogations over a number of unusual incidents.
One of those questioned was a commander of one of the regiments, an officer holding the rank of lieutenant colonel. The suspicions include violence offenses, use of excessive power, using the "neighbor procedure" (using civilians to order wanted Palestinians to leave their houses to be arrested) and firing at populated areas, including incidents which led to the alleged injury of Palestinian civilians.
At least seven soldiers and officers, some of them reservists, have been summoned for questioning at the Investigating Military Police's facilities over the past few days. The alleged incidents they were involved in took place in the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009.
So far, the Military Advocacy has decided to launch 27 investigations into a series of matters, after examining both the operational inquiries conducted by IDF commanders and some 140 complaints filed by various organizations and Palestinians.
At first, the army collected evidence from about 50 Palestinians, mostly in a meeting held at the Erez crossing. The military then attempted to locate the force which operated in the area in each incident.
The soldiers, including a regiment commander in the Infantry Corps, were asked many questions about their conduct during the incidents and were asked to explain why they had chosen to act the way they did and what were the orders they received.
None of those questioned has been arrested so far, and no arrests are expected. However, after the Military Advocacy examines the testimonies, decisions will be made on whether to file charges against the soldiers or close the cases.
According to a military source, at least 10 more soldiers and officers are expected to be questioned in the near future.
"The investigations deal with a variety of incidents and are just at their beginning, at least as far as the interrogees are concerned, and it's hard to predict how many of them, if at all, will end with an indictment. Summoning the soldiers is a routine procedure carried out when a certain incident is examined," the source said.
"Naturally, these are very sensitive issues which are being examined meticulously as this is not a routine security activity, but an operation handled like a war in which civilians are present against their will," the source added.
IDF legal officials added that it was too early to estimate how the investigations would end, and that there was a long way to go before decisions were made.