Senior officers punished over Gaza op
Israel's response to Goldstone Report reveals Gaza Division Commander Brigadier-General Eyal Eisenberg, former Givati Brigade Commander Colonel Ilan Malka 'disciplined for exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardized the lives of others' in incident involving alleged damage to UNRWA compound. Their punishment not disclosed
According to Israel's response, "The special command investigation revealed that, during the course of a military operation in Tel El Hawa, IDF forces fired several artillery shells in violation of the rules of engagement prohibiting use of such artillery near populated areas.
"Based on these findings, the commander of the Southern Command disciplined a brigade-general and a colonel for exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardized the lives of others."
Additional officers were disciplined after the operation, including a colonel who was rebuked.
UNRWA facility hit during Operation Cast Lead (Photo: AFP)
The IDF Spokesperson's Office confirmed the details Monday morning, including the artillery fire "in violation of orders" at an UNRWA facility, although "as far as we know, there were no casualties in this incident".
The statement notes that "an officer holding the rank of brigadier-general and an officer holding the rank of colonel were put on disciplinary trial", without mentioning their names or whether they were convicted. The punishment is not mentioned as well.
It should be noted that the two were disciplined by Southern Command Chief Yoav Galant, despite his direct involvement as their commander during the operation.
The IDF Spokesperson's Office added that the chief of staff recently appointed a sixth team to investigate Operation Cast Lead, in addition to the five teams which completed their work about half a year ago, "in order to look into the treatment of detainees" during the operation" and examine "two additional individual incidents".
According to the statement, one of those incidents "was examined in a previous military investigation, but in light of new information received by the IDF, it was decided to check the claim once more."
The IDF ruled that the report submitted to the UN proves that the IDF properly investigated itself in any way possible and that "where a deviation from the procedures was revealed, even if accidentally, it was handled on the spot". All this, the IDF Spokesperson's Office stated, proves that "the IDF has nothing to hide".
'UN chief commended Israel'
An investigation of claims that UN facilities and other international buildings were damaged included 13 different incidents. According to Israel's response, "The military advocate general found no basis to order criminal investigations of the 13 incidents under review. With regard to two of these incidents, the military advocate general affirmed the decisions to pursue disciplinary proceedings against IDF personnel.
"One of these incidents involved alleged damage to the UNRWA field office compound in Tel El Hawa. The special command investigation revealed that, during the course of a military operation in Tel El Hawa, IDF forces fired several artillery shells in violation of the rules of engagement prohibiting use of such artillery near populated areas. Based on these findings, the commander of the Southern Command disciplined a brigade-general and a colonel for exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardized the lives of others."
Civilians seeking shelter in UNRWA facility (Photo: AFP)
Israel added that "the United Nations secretary-general established a board of inquiry to examine a number of incidents involving damage to UN facilities, independent of the ongoing investigations in Israel.
"Israel cooperated fully with the UN board of inquiry, sharing the results of its internal investigations and providing detailed information about the incidents in question. The secretary-general commended Israel for its extensive cooperation.
"Following the UN board of inquiry's examination, and notwithstanding certain reservations it had with some aspects of the board's report, Israel entered into a dialogue with the United Nations to address all issues arising from the incidents examined. On January 22, 2010, the secretary general thanked Israel for its 'cooperative approach' in these discussions and confirmed that all financial issues relating to these incidents had been satisfactory concluded."
One of the issues investigated by the IDF following Operation Cast Lead was the army's use of phosphorus shells. Israel was accused of firing those shells at the UNRWA facility. The IDF claimed that the phosphorus bombs fired using mortars and by the Navy were permitted according to international law under certain limitations.
On January 7, before the UNRWA office was hit, the IDF decided to stop using the shells. Several such incidents were still recorded after the order was issued, as the instruction had not reached all the soldiers.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report