Army probing at least five senior officers over Gaza war

In ten separate incidents, one colonel and four lieutenant colonels investigated over conduct during fighting last summer

Illustrative: Soldiers training on the Gaza border on March 22, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Illustrative: Soldiers training on the Gaza border on March 22, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The IDF’s Military Police has reportedly been investigating 10 incidents relating to possible operational misconduct during last summer’s Gaza war against Hamas.

Five high-ranking officers — one colonel and four lieutenant colonels — all of whom fought in the conflict, were being scrutinized by the military advocate general to determine whether or not they displayed proper judgment in battle, Army Radio reported Monday.

Among those probed is Lt. Col. Neria Yeshurun, who allegedly ordered the bombardment of a clinic in Shejaiya a day after a Hamas sniper had shot and killed Capt. Dimitri Levitas from the roof of the structure.

Because the probes center around judgement calls, a fierce debate has erupted within the IDF between those who believe the incidents warrant full Military Police investigations, which can lead to criminal prosecution, and those who want the inquiries limited to operational debriefings, which are usually dealt with internally.

A senior source told Army Radio that it is unlikely that any of the officers will be indicted.

While investigations remain open, the officers are blocked from receiving promotions.

One investigation concerns the bombardment of a café in Khan Younis that resulted in the deaths of nine Palestinians. The July 10 bombing killed fans who had been watching a soccer World Cup semifinal match between The Netherlands and Argentina, according to eyewitnesses.

Another incident involves allegations of IDF abuse of a Palestinian detainee.

Seven more criminal investigations have been opened into soldiers’ actions during the summer campaign, including the bombing of a United Nations school that, according to Palestinians, killed 21 civilians and injured dozens.

A number of investigations have already been closed, including a probe into a shelling of a Gaza beach that left four children dead on July 16.

In April, the Military Prosecution filed an indictment with a military court against three soldiers suspected of looting the homes of Palestinian civilians during the fighting.

The case marked the first instance of charges pressed against IDF troops who participated in combat in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

The 50-day war killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian sources in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, and 73 Israelis, 66 of them soldiers.

Israel officially blames Hamas for all Palestinian civilian casualties, noting that the group, which rules Gaza, often launched attacks from within residential areas.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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