Israeli army admits 'isolated' mistakes in Gaza
At a briefing Wednesday, a top officer described the findings of an internal inquiry, insisting Israel acted in accord with international law.
Israel's second-ranking military officer admitted Wednesday the army made mistakes that caused civilian deaths during the January Gaza war against Hamas, but he reiterated the Army's assertion that it did not violate international conventions on warfare.Skip to next paragraph
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Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Dan Harel said the Army will forward to Israel's military prosecutor and the attorney general the findings of an internal inquiry into accusations of illegal use of white phosphorous munitions, targeting humanitarian and civilian infrastructure.
"We found a very small amount of cases where we had operational or intelligence mistakes during the fighting," General Harel told journalists attending a briefing at the military's national headquarters. Still, Harel insisted, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) "conducted itself in the Cast Lead operation under international rules of law."
The briefing was an attempt to address charges at home and abroad of war crimes. Palestinians and human rights groups allege that the Army used disproportionate force in Gaza's densely packed residential areas that left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead, thousands more injured, and a swath of physical destruction.
The UN is investigating some of the charges, and the International Court of Justice is mulling its own inquiry. Human rights lawyers abroad have said they are planning to introduce lawsuits in European domestic courts willing to exercise principles of universal jurisdiction over accusations of war crimes in third-party countries.
On Wednesday, six Norwegian lawyers said they were planning to bring charges of war crimes against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other top officials, according to Agence France-Presse.
Army: We hit 1,400 Hamas targets
The Army said the deadliest error occurred Jan. 6 when Israeli soldiers killed 21 civilians who were taking cover in a house. The soldiers mistook the house for a nearby weapons storehouse.
Harel said the mix-up was due to an "intelligence mistake," but insisted that the Army successfully identified some 1,400 Hamas other targets during the war. In a reiteration of the military's defense of the civilian toll at the time of the fighting, Harel said Hamas was to blame for the destruction for booby-trapping residences and hunkering down near hospitals.
Israeli human rights organizations disputed the findings and called on the government to cooperate with independent human rights groups seeking to investigate the war. Military commentators have reported that the Army used overwhelming firepower inside Gaza for fear that a high casualty rate among its own soldiers would sap support among the Israeli public for the offensive.