[JURIST] The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] on Thursday announced they are conducting criminal investigations into alleged intentional misconduct by their soldiers during December and January's fighting in the Gaza strip. In a report [text, PDF] seeking "to place the Gaza Operation in its proper factual and legal context," the IDF said that they are currently investigating 13 allegations against IDF personnel, including pillaging Palestinian homes, mistreating detainees, and using civilians as human shields. The report also details on-going field investigations that could form the basis for further criminal inquiries, at the discretion of the Military Advocate General [IDF materials]. Reporting the results of an investigation into war crimes allegations [press release] brought by IDF soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], the IDF concluded that "that some of the stories were based on hearsay and were not consistent with verifiable facts." The report defended the campaign against criticism [JURIST report] from Amnesty International [advocacy website], UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] and others, saying that "Israel had both a right and an obligation to take military action against Hamas in Gaza to stop Hamas' almost incessant rocket and mortar attacks upon thousands of Israeli civilians and its other acts of terrorism."
The report comes in advance of a report from the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website], expected in August, which has been strongly criticized [JURIST report] by Israel. The mission conducted public hearings [JURIST report] and field investigations into alleged war crimes committed by both IDF personnel and Hamas fighters. The mission began its field operations in Gaza in June, entering through Egypt after Israel announced it would not cooperate [JURIST report] with the investigation because it doubted the mission's objectivity. Both Israel and the US condemned [DOS briefing] a February report [text, PDF; JURIST report] that criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants, calling the conclusion "anything but fair." In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report]. Israel has already disputed [JURIST report] a previous report to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] that accused it of human rights violations.