Israel exonerates its armed forces of war crimes By Jean Shaoul

Israel’s own investigation into last year’s murderous assault on Gaza has predictably concluded that the Israel Defence Force (IDF) had not broken Israeli or international law. No criminal charges or disciplinary action will be taken against those who led air strikes targeting civilians that attracted worldwide condemnation.

The 250-page report published by Israel’s Foreign Ministry argues that Israel’s hands were clean, and that it was Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza, which was responsible for many of the civilian casualties, because its combatants were embedded in Palestinian homes, schools, mosques or United Nations buildings.

The Foreign Office also issued a report, the first by the IDF, showing a breakdown of the number of Palestinians killed during the 50-day war. It claims that 2,125 Palestinians were killed, 761 (36 percent) of whom were civilians, including 369 children and 284 women. This is much lower than estimates by the UN and other credible sources that put the number of civilians killed at 1,483 out of a total of 2,205, including 521 children and 283 women. Last February, Hamas told Associated Press that 400 of its fighters had been killed, a far lower figure than the IDF’s.

The reports stem from a number of investigations carried out by Israel in order to exonerate itself and challenge enquiries by the International Criminal Court or UN into possible war crimes, as they will not investigate if Israel carries out its own criminal investigations. The Military Police, under instructions from the Military Advocate General’s Office, launched 13 criminal investigations, closing nine after claiming there was no evidence of wrongdoing. The military also opened inquiries into 85 complaints about “exceptional incidents.”

The timing of the report, claiming that the IDF had fought a moral, defensive war in accordance with international law and exonerating it of all responsibility for civilian casualties, is not accidental. It comes just days before the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHCR) is due to publish the findings of its inquiry, with which Israel refused to cooperate, that will in turn form the basis of any investigation into possible war crimes by the ICC currently being sought by the Palestinians.

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