Isabel Kershner
The New York Times
March 30, 2009 - 12:00am

The Israeli military said Monday that its advocate general had decided to close an investigation into allegations of abuses by soldiers during the recent campaign in Gaza. The allegations arose from the accounts of soldiers at a conference of graduates of a premilitary course at an academic college in northern Israel.

The military police found that “the crucial components of their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by specific personal knowledge,” the army said in a statement.

Specifically, a soldier’s claim that orders had been given to fire at an elderly Palestinian woman who entered a no-go zone was found to be based on a rumor, according to the military. Another case, in which a soldier had supposedly been ordered to fire at a woman and two children, was also found not to have been witnessed by the soldier who gave the account.

“After checking the claim, it was found that during this incident a force had opened fire in a different direction, toward two suspicious men who were unrelated to the civilians in question,” the statement said.

The allegations that arose from the conference at the academy and the wide coverage they received in the news media were troubling to many Israelis, most of whom are conscripted at the age of 18. Many Israelis view the army as a force that maintains high moral standards.

The academy’s director, Dany Zamir, told Army Radio on Monday that he accepted the advocate general’s report. Still, he added, “If soldiers will now feel that they cannot talk because of the outcome of this specific story, then this is very bad for us as a society and army.”

On the other hand, he stated, it was not his intention to attract news media attention by making the contents of the soldiers’ discussion public. He added that the news media’s focus on the story “truly complicated everything.”

A group of nine Israeli human rights organizations issued a statement saying that the army’s speedy closing of its internal investigation underlined the need for an independent investigation into possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

The Israeli Army says 1,166 people were killed during the 22-day war in Gaza, which ended on Jan. 18. Of those, it said that about a quarter were noncombatants. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza says that the number of dead is 1,417, of whom nearly two-thirds were civilians.

The military noted that additional internal investigations relating to the Gaza operation were still under way.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017