An IDF commander said Tuesday that soldiers were unprepared for the intense fighting that ensued after a fragile ceasefire broke between Israel and Hamas during the 50-day war last summer.
According to details from an IDF investigation released by Army Radio Tuesday, troops from the Givati Brigade were ordered to destroy terror tunnels inside Gaza during the 72-hour ceasefire, but were caught off guard when Hamas fighters kidnapped Lt. Hadar Goldin.
Believing Goldin had been captured alive, the army responded with massive force in an effort to thwart his abductors, in accordance with the controversial Hannibal Protocol, an IDF order under which soldiers are instructed to use all means necessary to foil a kidnapping, even at the price of killing or wounding the soldier.
Known as “Black Friday” in Israel, the resumed fighting on August 1 claimed the lives of three IDF soldiers, including Goldin.
In the report, Givati Brigade Commander Col. Ofer Winter called the orders “confusing” and admitted that the military compromised the safety of the soldiers by putting them in an “unfortunate situation.”
“The situation should have been assessed together with the battalion commanders before the ceasefire was declared,” he said.
The report stated that even though Goldin and two other soldiers were in an area that was unsecured, the IDF counterstrike was proportionate.
“Shots that were fired during the operation were designed to block the escape routes of kidnappers, and were done proportionately,” the report stated.
According to the report, 800 artillery shells and 260 mortars were fired into Rafah as planes and helicopters bombed approximately 35 targets from the air.
Palestinian officials said that the Israel’s response resulted in the deaths of as many as 150 civilians.
However, the IDF investigation found that 41 people were killed in the counteroffensive, 12 of whom were identified by the army as terrorists, 13 as civilians, and the rest as undetermined, although the army categorized them as “of fighting age.”
The IDF’s Military Advocate General has reviewed dozens of incidents involving the deaths of civilians during Operation Protective Edge. Of those, the MAG has ordered 13 criminal investigations to date, against soldiers suspected of deviations from protocol that resulted in avoidable casualties.
Although a final decision has yet to be made, the MAG is considering opening a criminal investigation into the August 1 incident.