Claims that IDF soldiers deliberately killed civilians during Operation Cast Lead were based in hearsay, a military investigation has concluded. The two soldiers who first reported the alleged incidents several weeks ago had not seen the incidents themselves, and had no personal knowledge to support the allegations.
Despite the fact that the claims were based in rumor, IDF investigators examined each reported attack on a non-combatant to ensure that the rumors were not based in truth. No evidence was found to indicate that the incidents took place, they concluded.
The allegations first came to light at a conference at the Rabin Military Mechina (pre-army preparation program). The director of the program, Danny Zamir, is on the far left of the political spectrum and accused the IDF of killing children in Gaza prior to the conference.
Investigators found that the soldiers who made dramatic claims of IDF crimes during the conference had embellished the stories for dramatic effect, making it sound as if they had personal knowledge of the cases when in fact they had not witnessed the events in question.
One soldier claimed that soldiers had fired at an elderly woman. He later admitted that the story was based on a rumor, which was apparently based on an incident in which soldiers fired on a woman suspected of being a suicide bomber after she ignored several calls to stop.
The same soldier admitted that he had not witnessed any of the incidents he described during the conference.
A second soldier who participated in the conference had claimed that an IDF sniper shot a woman and her two children after they wandered into a no-fire zone. In fact, the woman and children were not fired on at all; rather, soldiers had fired on two suspicious men who were in a different area.
Other claims made at the conference, regarding the military's use of phosphorous, were based on media reports and not personal experience, soldiers admitted.
Advocate: Difficult to Evaluate the Damage
Military Advocate General, Brigadier-General Avichai Mendelblit expressed disappointment with the soldiers in question, whose allegations sparked worldwide criticism of Israel. “It is unfortunate that none of the speakers at the conference was careful to be accurate in the depiction of his claims, and even more so that they chose to present various incidents of a severe nature, despite not personally witnessing and knowing much about them,” Mendelblit said.
It seems that it will be difficult to evaluate the damage done to the image and morals of the IDF and its soldiers, who had participated in Operation Cast Lead, in Israel and the world,” he added.
Leftist Groups Accuse IDF of Cover-Up
Several left-wing groups, including Gisha, Yesh Din, and B'Tselem, accused the IDF of using the investigation to whitewash crimes in Gaza. The investigation was conducted too quickly, they said.
"The investigation was not intended for thorough fact-checking, but rather to rid the IDF of its responsibility," several of the groups said in a joint statement.
Zamir: Why did they Investigate?
Danny Zamir, who held the conference at which allegations were first reported, expressed surprise on Monday that the allegations had led to a full-scale investigation. “I didn't understand from the start why the military police opened an investigation,” he said. “I'm glad the police closed the case.”
Zamir said IDF failure should have been dealt with without police involvement. “If there were mistakes, they stemmed from problems of education and values... I'm sure the IDF can deal with problems of values without the military police.”