The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] announced Tuesday that several Israeli soldiers will face disciplinary action [press release] for their role in the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in the Gaza strip. The announcement was made following an independent Israeli investigation [JURIST report] into the conflict, as well as the allegations contained in the Goldstone report [text, PDF]. The Goldstone report was the result of a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] fact-finding mission, which accused both IDF and Hamas [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] fighters of war crimes during the conflict. According to the IDF, more than 150 incidents were investigated, with action being taken against four soldiers. Three soldiers face disciplinary hearings for their actions and one will face criminal manslaughter charges for allegedly firing into a crowd of civilians who were waving a white flag. The other charges include allegations that civilians were used as human shields and that an air strike was ordered for an area close to a mosque. A criminal investigation has also been ordered into the bombing of a civilian housing complex. The IDF noted that further legal measures would not be taken in other incidents mentioned by the Goldstone report because, "according to the rules of warfare, no faults were found in the forces' actions" or there was not enough evidence to proceed. The IDF also reiterated that the operation was conducted after eight years of rocket fire into southern Israel from Gaza and that Israel practiced a "policy of restraint for a long period of time."
Both Israel and Hamas conducted independent investigations into the incident after the UN General Assembly [official website] adopted a resolution in November giving them three months to probe possible war crimes committed during the Gaza conflict. Hamas reported to the UN that its independent investigation had absolved Palestinian forces of any wrongdoing. Israel presented a report to the UN in February detailing its role in the conflict [JURIST report] and noting that two high-ranking Israeli officers were indicted for their actions during the incident. Rights groups have questioned the impartiality of the internal investigations. In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused [JURIST report] both Israel and Hamas of failing to conduct meaningful, credible investigations into accusations of war crimes during the conflict. In February, HRW criticized [JURIST report] Israel for failing to demonstrate that it would conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of the alleged war crimes. Just prior to that, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] said that it was unclear whether Israel and Palestine have fully met UN demands [JURIST reports] to set up a commission to investigate war crimes that may occurred during the conflict.