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Israel probe of Gaza fighting not impartial: HRW

[JURIST] Israel has not shown that it will conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of alleged war crimes during the January 2009 Gaza conflict [JURIST news archive], Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said [press release] Sunday. HRW said that it met with lawyers from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website], but it did not receive information concerning how Israel was looking into decisions made by military commanders or overall policy. HRW also cast doubt on Israel's claim that it has conducted about 150 investigations into incidents in Gaza, saying that many of the them were not criminal investigations because there were not interviews with the soldiers involved or victims and witnesses. Joe Stork, deputy director for Human Rights Watch in the Middle East, emphasized that Israel must go beyond looking into specific incidents:

Israel claims it is conducting credible and impartial investigations, but it has so far failed to make that case. ... The Israeli investigations so far have looked mostly at soldiers who disobeyed orders or the rules of engagement, but failed to ask the crucial question about whether those orders and rules of engagement themselves violated the laws of war.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] said [JURIST report] that it is unclear [BBC report] whether Israel and Palestine have fully met UN demands [JURIST report] to set up a commission to investigate war crimes that may occurred during the conflict. The UN General Assembly [official website] adopted a resolution [JURIST report] in November giving Israel and Palestine three months to complete an investigation into war crimes allegations. Last month, the Israeli Foreign Ministry [official website] released its 46-page report [JURIST report] to the UN, partially detailing Israeli operations in Gaza and revealing that the Israeli military had disciplined [JURIST report] two high-ranking Army officers for firing shells into a populated area in the Gaza strip. Hamas has also denied that it committed war crimes, saying that Israeli civilian deaths during the conflict were an accident.

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