Israeli army disciplines soldiers for 2021 Gaza war, but no criminal action

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Israel’s army announced Friday that it has disciplined five officers, but would not file criminal charges for their actions during Israel’s 2021 war in the Gaza Strip — a conflict in which human rights advocates say Israel committed war crimes.

The soldiers, who received army reprimands for their actions, did not obey standard procedures when striking Gaza, the army statement said. It did not say when the incidents took place, what occurred or whether they involved civilian deaths.

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Israel’s war with Gaza — the fourth since Hamas seized control of the region in 2007 — left over 250 Palestinians dead, while 13 people were killed in Israel.

Israeli aircraft struck hundreds of targets in Gaza, and Hamas launched over 4,000 rockets at Israel.

Human rights groups have harshly criticized the conduct of Israeli forces during the 11-day war. New York-based Human Rights Watch has said the actions of the Israeli army amounted to war crimes, including attacks that had “no evident military targets,” and resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into Israeli actions in Gaza dating back to 2014.

Israel blames Gaza’s Hamas for the civilian casualties, saying it launches attacks and takes cover in residential areas.

Friday’s statement said the army had investigated the actions of five officers, including three with the rank of colonel.

The army statement said that in one incident, two officers were involved in striking a target at an unauthorized range.

In a second incident, an officer received a warning for “negligence for incriminating a target in violation of the mandatory procedure.” Another officer was reprimanded for a “lack of sufficient control in the striking unit cell.”

In the third incident, an officer erred in “targeting procedure.”

A review of the officers’ actions by Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, an army inspector, found that none “crossed the criminal threshold,” the statement said.

It also said most officers had received reprimands, but gave few additional details.

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, said the punishments were relatively light and did not amount to a real form of accountability for the destruction Israeli airstrikes wrought on Gaza.

“Entire families were wiped out, and high-rise buildings with scores of homes and businesses were reduced to rubble,” Shakir said. “That requires a much more serious investigation and real consequences imposed, not only on those who carried out the attacks but on those who authorized them. What took place does not appear to be that.”

The announcement came on the heels of Israel’s raid this week on the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, which was also criticized by the international community, including a rare condemnation from the UN chief, for possible human rights violations.

The Jenin raid — Israel’s largest military operation in the West Bank in two decades — left 12 Palestinians dead and over a hundred civilians injured. One Israeli soldier was also killed.

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