Israeli army probe set to find no violation of 'open-fire' orders during Gaza protests
An internal Israeli army probe into the killings of 153 Palestinians during Gaza protests is set to find that none of the incidents involved violated standard military procedure or open-fire orders, an Israeli newspaper has said.
Within the next few days, the investigating team is expected to pass on its conclusions to the Military Advocate General, advising there are no grounds for referring any of the cases to the Military Police for further investigation, Haaretz reported on Thursday.
The investigating team, headed by Brigadier General Moti Baruch, reportedly found that "operational mishaps" were behind the killing of Palestinian demonstrators, not intentional targeting.
The investigators collected information about each incident that led to the death of a Palestinian, including the reason for opening fire, who gave the order and which snipers were involved.
A number of reasons for the "operational mishaps" were given by the investigators, such as demonstrators intruding in the line of fire as well as bullets ricocheting, Haaretz said.
Where Palestinians were killed in the course of what was deemed clear "terrorist activity", such as opening fire or throwing explosives or hand grenades at Israeli soldiers, the team concluded that troops opened fire due to operational needs, and did not investigate the incidents in detail, the newspaper said.
The probe spans the period from the start of the "Great March of Return" on 30 March up until 14 July.
Palestinians have been demonstrating every Friday since 30 March, calling for their right to return to the homes and land their families were expelled from seven decades ago.
Since the demonstrations began, Israeli forces have killed more than 150 Palestinians and wounded more than 16,000 people, according to Gaza health officials.
Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot initiated the internal investigation following the killing of Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja on 6 April, which caused widespread criticism of the Israeli army's conduct in Gaza.
Commenting on the report, B'tselem, an Israel-based organisation documenting human rights violations in the occupied territories, said: "Israeli military probe findings, that snipers did not intentionally shoot at Palestinians who were "uninvolved" is disingenuous and hollow chatter.
"The manifestly illegal orders soldiers received allowed snipers to shoot at unarmed protesters who posed no risk.
"Predictably, exactly like after 'Operation Protective Edge', the 'general staff investigation mechanism' was part and parcel of the whitewash," the statement said.
Operation Protective Edge was a military operation launched by Israel on 8 July 2014 in Gaza.
Haaretz said once the findings are presented to Military Advocate General Major Gen Sharon Afek he will decide whether to accept the conclusions or open new probes into any case where he suspects wrongdoing.