Israeli military refuses to investigate deadly Gaza strike that killed 12 civilians

on 15 Comments
Gaza buffer
Palestinians gather around the al-Dalou family home (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

The Israeli military will not open a criminal investigation into the most controversial strike carried out during the November 2012 assault on Gaza, according to a report in Haaretz.

The strike wiped out ten members of the same family and was investigated by Human Rights Watch, which concluded that the attack was a “clear violation of the laws of war.” The justification for why there will be no investigation from the Military Advocate General does not take into account Israel’s changing explanations as to who the military was targeting. The general sticks to the disputed claim that the Israeli military targeted a Hamas militant.

On November 18, 2012, in the midst of Israel’s latest operation in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli warplane dropped a large bomb on the al-Dalou family’s home. The attack killed ten members of the family and two neighbors. It instantly became a grim symbol of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the military name given for the assault in November that killed 101 Palestinian civilians, according to a UN Human Rights Council report.

Israel was put on the hot seat for the al-Dalou strike, and it couldn’t get its story straight. At first, the Israel Defense Forces claimed that they targeted Yihia Abayah, reportedly the commander of Hamas’ rocket launching operations. After that story was scrutinized, the Israeli military said that they did, in fact, mean to target a member of the al-Dalou family. The intended target of the strike was Mohamed Jamal al-Dalou, who the Israeli military claimed was a “terror operative” for Hamas.

But that wasn’t the last change to the Israeli military’s story. After Human Rights Watch cast doubt on Israel’s claim that Mohamed Jamal al-Dalou was a Hamas operative–there was no evidence to back that up–an Israeli military spokeswoman denied that she had said he was the target. The denial came despite the fact that Agence France Presse reported that the spokeswoman did say Mohamed Jamal al-Dalou was the target. The last explanation, given to Ma’an News, was that the unnamed target was a Hamas militant.

Israel’s shifting story, and the deaths of 12 civilians, were not enough to convince Israel’s Military Advocate General to open up an investigation. The Military Advocate General is the body responsible for investigating and prosecuting alleged war crimes committed by the Israeli military.

Haaretz’s Gilli Cohen reports that “the Military Advocate General’s Corps investigation into the incident supported the decision to target Rabia.” That is an indication that the military is going back to saying they targeted Rabia, even though the al-Dalou family told Human Rights Watch that they knew nothing about this person.

Cohen reports that the Military Advocate General decision states that “military forces involved in the operation did not expect the attack to result in collateral damage to civilians that were not involved in fighting, to the extent that has been claimed was caused.” The general, Danny Efroni, coldly adds that “the incident is not suspected of being a criminal offence, as the unfortunate outcome occurred despite efforts to reduce collateral damage to citizens who were uninvolved in combat.” The general’s decision apparently does not grapple with the fact that the military was spinning the story around the deaths of the al-Dalou family, which, if nothing else, should be a signal that the full facts of the case are being concealed by Israel.

Human Rights Watch had called for Israel to investigate the attack, but that won’t be happening.

Haaretz also reports that the military is looking into other cases stemming from Operation Pillar of Defense, but that the vast majority of incidents “did not justify a criminal investigation.” Here’s more from Haaretz:

The remaining cases are currently in the final stages of examination, pending a decision. They include reports of attacks on communications facilities in the Strip. Human Rights Watch published a report in December claiming that such an attack was a war crime. According to the organization, two Palestinian photographers were killed in the attacks and at least ten other members of the media were injured.

The advocate general ordered that additional investigations be carried out regarding these reports before a decision is reached as to whether to open a criminal investigation. The Military Advocate General’s Corps says that a decision on the matter is “expected to be reached soon.”

The Military Advocate General’s Corps noted that in a number of cases, there is a basis for the claim that innocent civilians who were not involved in the fighting were harmed, or that civilian property was damaged: “Often, as a result of unwanted and unintentional damage as a consequence of attacking military targets, or as a result of operational errors in which civilians were mistakenly identified as terrorists.”

It added: “This is an unfortunate result, but in itself it certainly does not constitute a war crime, and is a direct result of the activities of Palestinian terror organizations that have chosen to conduct their criminal operations within the civilian population.”

Israel’s track record on investigating itself for war crimes is poor. Four years after the brutal 2008-09 assault on Gaza, only four soldiers have been convicted of wrongdoing–and only two of those have served jail time, according to Human Rights Watch. In August 2012, Haaretz decried the paucity of accountability for war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead, an assault that killed some 1400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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15 Responses

  1. Citizen
    April 14, 2013, 9:28 am

    This reminds me, apropos Obama last visit to Israel, and Kerry’s follow-up visit there (coupled with Hagel as new SOD), that Obama went right along with the dissing and dismissal of the Goldstone Report.

  2. Basilio
    April 14, 2013, 9:32 am

    Well, I feel sorry for the Israelis who commit such crimes because having the identity of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist will not absolve you of a crime in the end. I believe there’s always a price to being a criminal. What Israel is doing is very criminal.

  3. just
    April 14, 2013, 11:18 am

    Israel’s Code: Never take any responsibility or accountability.

    And does their ‘ally’– the US– ever, ever encourage them to do the right thing?

    NO, and therefore, we are complicit in and responsible for these endless crimes.

  4. Blownaway
    April 14, 2013, 11:28 am

    Why should they? They already know what the results will be. So they would rather ignore it and know that like Goldstone or the Samouun family it will just fade into obscurity…

  5. asherpat
    April 14, 2013, 4:23 pm

    “Human Rights Watch had called for Israel to investigate the attack, but that won’t be happening.”

    What’s the point in calling to investigate something you already determined to be a crime? (“Human Rights Watch, which concluded that the attack was a “clear violation of the laws of war.”)

    • Cliff
      April 14, 2013, 9:05 pm

      How about to uphold the values you claim to believe in?

      How about to find out for yourself what happened?

      • Joe Ed
        April 15, 2013, 7:10 am

        The Israeli military needs to investigate itself to find out what it did? It doesn’t know what it did?

      • asherpat
        April 15, 2013, 9:19 am

        @Cliff, how do you know what values I believe in? I never “claimed” anything.

        How about you answer to the point of my comment? You don’t have to, you know, but if you do, pls answer to the point. Provided that my response will not be blocked, of course.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 15, 2013, 10:52 am

        How about you answer to the point of my comment?

        you mean answering what the point of why an investigation? because experts looked at the chain of events and the israeli explanation doesn’t hold water. it’s all over the map switching stories left and right every time the facts don’t line up. they’ve been covering their arses time and again. people were slaughtered, innocents were slaughtered.

        right from the get go spokespersons for the military told conflicting stories. so if experts have come to other conclusions there should be, at a minimum, an internal investigation that lays bare the processes that led to the attack and why those explanations kept changing. people deserve answers. your question was nothing but an exercise in redundancy because the answer is self evident.

      • Cliff
        April 15, 2013, 11:17 am


        I am not talking about your values

        I read your comment and responded to the hypothetical you posed, which was why should ISRAEL respond to the numerous human rights NGOs and conduct an internal investigation

        However even if I am talking about you for some reason – the implication in my statement is that you hypothetically care about basic decency and honesty and accountability

        But now I see, judging by your reply, that you do not and think I’m incorrect in assuming to know what ‘you’ stand for

      • asherpat
        April 15, 2013, 11:45 am

        @Annie – “they’ve been covering their arses time and again. people were slaughtered, innocents were slaughtered.” Annie, have you ever wrote these words when Jewish civilians were killed intentionally (as stated by Palestinian senders of the perpetrators)? And have Palestinian ever tried to “cover their arses” or they just don’t bother when they target Jewish civilians – has there ever been an “inquiry” by Hamas of attacks on Jewish civilians? I wonder if you have any sense of justice, then you wud have been symmetrical in your writings. Dou you?

      • Talkback
        April 15, 2013, 8:17 pm

        Yes Annie, be symmetrical. I agree with asherpat that Hamas has become like Israel.

      • K Renner
        April 17, 2013, 8:58 am

        Was there ever inquiry into attacks on German civilians by resistance organizations during the second world war?

    • MK_Ultra
      April 15, 2013, 10:51 am

      So, you accept then that it was a war crime? Good then. In that case, to The Hague with them all!

  6. MK_Ultra
    April 15, 2013, 10:49 am

    And if they investigated themselves, they would indubitably find themselves to be The Most Moral Army in The World™ crimes against humanity, genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, Apartheid notwithstanding. This is exactly what happens in every situation when the weasel is left in charge of the hen house.

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