A COALITION of Jewish and Arab human rights groups have criticised as inadequate an Israel Defence Forces investigation into its activities during the battle in Gaza in January.
The IDF's internal investigation found that no Palestinian civilians were harmed intentionally by its soldiers during the 23-day invasion that killed more than 1300 Palestinians and wounded more than 4000.
Israel's Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, hailed the report as proof once again “that the IDF is one of the most moral armies in the world”. Mr Barak said: “The IDF is not afraid to investigate itself and in that, proves that its operations are ethical.”
When civilians were killed by IDF fire, the report found that the deaths were regrettable, but had resulted from operational mistakes that were “bound to happen during intensive fighting”.
But a coalition of Israeli human rights groups, which includes B'Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, Yesh Din, The Public Committee Against Torture and Rabbis for Human Rights, described the IDF report as problematic and said the only way to truly investigate alleged war crimes was through an independent external inquiry.
“Military investigation results published today refer to tens of innocent Palestinian civilians killed by 'rare mishaps' in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead,” the groups said in a joint statement.
“However, data collected by Israeli human rights organisations shows that many civilians were killed in Gaza not due to 'mishaps' but as a direct result of the military's chosen policy implemented throughout the fighting.
“If the military claims that there were no major deficiencies in its conduct in Gaza, it is not clear why Israel refuses to co-operate with the UN investigation team, led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone, which requests an investigation of alleged violations of international law by both Israel and Hamas.”
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza also called on Israel to co-operate with the UN investigation team.
The IDF inquiry was conducted by five senior officers who were not involved in Operation Cast Lead and focused on reports of civilians who been targeted intentionally, and also attacks on civilian infrastructure, UN facilities and the use of white phosphorous.
The chemical is used to create a smoke screen but can cause serious burns and death.