[JURIST] Israeli military officials closed an internal investigation Monday into allegations of war crimes committed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] personnel against Palestinian civilians, concluding that there was no wrongdoing [press release]. The investigation was launched last week [JURIST report] by the IDF in response to comments made by soldiers concerning reports of civilian killings and vandalism under liberal rules of engagement during a recent operation in the Gaza Strip. Dismissing the soldiers' reports as "hearsay," the IDF investigation concluded that the soldiers' comments were exaggerated, and repetition of rumors that circulated among forces operating in Gaza and not based on the actual observations of the soldiers who made the allegations. Military Advocate General Brigadier Avichai Mendelbilt said:
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. 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.Word of the investigation came as UN Special Rapportuer on human rights in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk [appointment release] issued a report [text, PDF] to the UN Human Rights Council [official website], in which Falk criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their offensives in the region. Falk called for an independent investigation into the alleged crimes, which he said included the targeting of hospitals and mosques, the use of white phosphorus incendiary bombs in heavily populated areas, as well as Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. Both Israel and the US have criticized the report [JURIST report] as biased. Two weeks ago, a group of 16 human rights investigators and judges sent an open letter [text; JURIST report] to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile; JURIST news archive] and the UN Security Council calling for an investigation into the alleged crimes. Earlier this month, Iran announced that it would seek INTERPOL arrest warrants [JURIST report] for Israeli war crimes suspects. In January, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an independent investigation [statement text; JURIST report] of possible war crimes and human rights violations in Gaza. International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is also attempting to gain jurisdiction over Israel [JURIST report] to investigate its actions in Gaza for alleged war crimes. Israel has already begun to consider defenses against possible war crimes charges, partly based on accusations [JURIST reports] that it used white phosphorus in a civilian area.