Israel Defends Army’s Gaza Conduct

An internal Israeli investigation has concluded that the country’s military acted in accordance with international law during the recent war in Gaza.

Reporting its findings on Wednesday, the military rejected allegations of war crimes from human rights groups and some UN officials.

The groups had criticized the Israeli army’s conduct during the three-week offensive.

The army "maintained a high professional and moral level while facing an enemy that aimed to terrorize Israeli civilians", the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), as the military in Israel is called, said in a statement.

It said it conducted five separate investigations into some of its actions during the war, including attacks on and near UN and international facilities and the use in densely populated areas of white phosphorous, a chemical agent that causes severe burns.

"The enemy booby-trapped its houses with explosives, fired from the schools attended by its own children and used its own people as human shields while cynically abusing the IDF legal and ethical commitment to avoid injuring uninvolved civilians," the Israeli military said.

The military said its investigations "revealed a very small number of incidents in which intelligence or operational errors took place during the fighting".

‘Unfortunate Incidents’

Major-General Dan Harel, the army’s deputy chief of staff, said among these incidents was an attack on a residence in the southern Gaza City neighbourhood of Zeitun, in which 21 people were killed.

"These unfortunate incidents were unavoidable and occur in all combat situations," the military said.

But human-rights groups renewed their calls for an independent inquiry.
 
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said both Israeli and international human rights groups had criticized the internal investigation.

"They said a couple of weeks ago that it was completely inappropriate that an army should be investigating itself," she said.

"The other question is how these findings will be received by the Israeli public … and they as a whole have been lulled into this narrative according to which the Israeli army is the most moral army in the world.
 
"So in a way, this report will be falling on very willing ears – it will be telling the Israeli public a version of events that they want to hear."

Up to 1,300 Palestinians, mostly women and children, were killed during the 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip.

Thirteen Israelis, 10 of them soldiers, were killed during the same period.

High-level Talks

The Israeli investigation’s findings were published in advance of a meeting between Ehud Barak, the defence minister, and Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s chief of intelligence, in Tel Aviv.

Barak was among several members of the new Israeli cabinet whom Suleiman met for the first time on Wednesday.

Suleiman also met Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, who once cursed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for not visiting Israel.

Afterwards, Lieberman’s office said he "expressed his respect and appreciation for Egypt’s leading role in the region and his personal respect for … Mubarak and … Suleiman".

Greeting Suleiman at his office, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said Israel and Egypt have common interests, "and the most important one is peace".

Netanyahu’s office said Suleiman invited him to visit Egypt.
 
(Aljazeera and Agencies)

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