The investigation looked into claims in which facilities, structueres and vehicles associated with the UN or other international organizations were fired upon and damaged during Operation Cast Lead
Claims against Incidents where UN and international facilities were fired upon and damaged during Operation Cast Lead
The investigation was conducted by Col. Itzik Turgeman with the objective of thoroughly examining claims regarding 13 incidents in which facilities, structures and vehicles associated with the United Nations (UN) or other international organizations were damaged.
The majority of the incidents that were investigated were detailed in the complaints submitted to the IDF by the UN during Operation Cast Lead and thereafter, while other incidents were discovered during the process of investigating.
The investigation showed that the IDF took numerous measures to avoid hitting facilities and vehicles affiliated with the UN, Red Cross and other international organizations. These facilities were marked on IDF maps in advance according to the information provided by the international organizations. Clear orders were given stating that the hitting of facilities and vehicles of this sort must be avoided. Coordination between the IDF and the UN, the Red Cross and the international organizations was done via a special Civil Administration situation room and a center for humanitarian coordination that was established in order to allow day to day humanitarian aid coordination.
Investigation shows that Hamas and the other terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip placed the facilities used by the UN and other international organizations in substantial danger. With the knowledge that the IDF limits its operations in the vicinity of such facilities, the terror organizations intentionally launched rockets and mortar shells adjacent to them. Similarly, Hamas and other terrorist organizations located headquarters, bases, weapon storage facilities and other terrorist infrastructure close to the sensitive facilities of the UN, Red Cross and other international organizations.
Below are the findings of the investigation with regard to some of the prominent incidents that were investigated:
A. Claims about the Incident at the UNRWA school in Jabaliya ("Fahoura" School)
The incident occurred near the UNRWA school ("Fahoura" School) in Jabaliya on January 6th, 2009. Hamas operatives used a site located only 80 meters away from the school to launch mortar shells at IDF forces. The shells exploded next to an IDF force operating in the area, and represented a grave threat to the soldiers. The previous day thirty IDF soldiers were wounded by Hamas mortar fire. The mortar fire presented a very significant threat to the lives of IDF forces.
Following a confirmed and cross-referenced identification of the source of the fire, the soldiers under attack responded with minimal and proportionate retaliatory fire, using the most precise weapon available to them, with the purpose of stopping the Hamas fire. The return fire hit the Hamas operatives who were firing the mortars and stopped their fire. All of the shells fired by the force landed outside of the school grounds (contrary to claims made by Hamas). Sadly, due to the fact that Hamas was firing from a populated area, the return fire also resulted in unintentional harm to civilians in the vicinity.
Despite the fact that the incident took place outside the UNRWA school grounds, Hamas was quick to accuse Israel of intentionally hitting the UN Facility. The investigation showed unequivocally that those claims were false. This was reinforced by the UN in a press release published subsequent to the operation. Additionally, the investigation showed that a cell of five terror operatives and seven civilians outside of the school grounds were hit, contrary to the 42 deaths that were reported by Hamas inside the school grounds.
B. Claims made Regarding Damage to the UNRWA Headquarters and to a Building which turned out to be a Red Cross Pharmaceutical Storage facility in Tel El-Hawa
Two incidents were investigated that took place on January 15th 2009 during fierce fighting in the Hamas’ stronghold in the Tel El-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza city. Hamas deployed anti-tank squads near sensitive facilities in the neighborhood, intending to deliver a strategic blow to the IDF (e.g. by hitting an IDF tank).
Damage to a structure that turned out to be a pharmaceutical storage facility– The investigation showed that during the battle, IDF forces came under fire from both anti-tank and small arms fire by terrorists located next to a structure that was later discovered to contain a Red Cross pharmaceutical storage facility.
The IDF returned fire towards the source of fire only after an IDF armored bulldozer suffered a direct hit from anti-tank fire. During the ensuing exchange of fire, which included the IDF’s responsive firing, it appears that the structure containing the storage facility was hit. The IDF was not provided with the location of the storage facility in question by the Red Cross prior to the operation and therefore was not marked on the IDF’s maps, unlike other Red Cross facilities. No one was injured during the incident.
Damage to the storage facility in the UNRWA headquarters compound – Concurrently, in the same general area, the IDF deployed a smoke screen in order to protect a tank force operating in the neighborhood from Hamas anti-tank crews who had positioned themselves adjacent to the UNRWA headquarters. The smoke screen was intended to block the terrorists’ field of view. Information received by the IDF shows that the smoke screen did assist in protecting the force and prevented precise anti-tank fire against IDF forces. The smoke projectiles were fired at an area a considerable distance from the UNRWA headquarters, and were not intended to cause damage to either person or property. However, it appears that fragments of the smoke projectiles did hit a warehouse located in the headquarters, causing it to catch fire.
During the incident, claims were also made that an explosive shell or shrapnel hit the UNRWA headquarters. The investigation showed that these were shells, or shell fragments that were fired at military targets within the battle zone.
The damage caused to the UNRWA headquarters during the fighting in the Tel El-Hawwa neighborhood is the unfortunate result of the type of warfare that Hamas forced upon the IDF, involving combat in the Gaza Strip’s urban spaces and adjacent to facilities associated with international organizations. These results could not be predicted.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the forces did not intend, at any stage, to hit a UN facility. Following UN complaints that an explosive shell had hit the headquarters, the forces were ordered to cease firing explosive shells in the region in question. Following the receipt of reports about the fire in the warehouse, all firing in the area was stopped. The entry of fire-fighting trucks to the area was coordinated with the IDF in order to assist in extinguishing the fire.
C. Terrorist Use of UN Vehicles
The investigation also looked into a complaint that an UNRWA vehicle was fired on in the Tel El Hawa neighborhood on January 14th 2009. The investigation reached the conclusion that during the incident a vehicle was fired upon, which it was later claimed belonged to the UN, but the vehicle did not bear UN markings. The vehicle was traveling in an area that international organizations had been clearly informed was forbidden for the movement of vehicles. The vehicle was carrying a Palestinian anti-tank squad. It was fired upon only after it had unloaded the terrorist squad and advanced towards the forces in a manner creating a genuine concern that it was a Hamas car bomb.
D. IDF-UN Coordination
During the operation, the IDF constantly coordinated with the UN and other international organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. Coordination included the movement of 500 vehicles and convoys and the transfer of a continuous supply of food and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. Many other problems were efficiently solved in real time. However, despite the thorough coordination, the investigation showed that during certain incidents there were failures in coordination.
In one instance, an IDF force fired upon a UN truck, which did not bear UN markings, on a journey that had not been coordinated ahead of time with the IDF. The investigation showed that closer coordination of the movement of UN vehicles is required, with an emphasis on precise routes and schedules.
The investigation concluded that the IDF did not, at any time, fire with the deliberate intention to hit a UN vehicle or facility in any of the 13 incidents investigated. In one instance the IDF targeted a group of people who were present in a UN-affiliated school late at night, at a time in which there were no classes taking place in the school, following specific intelligence and relying on the suspicion that led to the conclusion that they were participating in terrorist operations. In another incident, IDF forces attacked a UN vehicle which was being used for terrorist operations.
The IDF made sure not to hit facilities and vehicles associated with the UN and other international organizations and operated with extreme caution in order not to harm more than 1800 sensitive facilities located in the Gaza Strip. The IDF also coordinated almost 500 different vehicle movements during the fighting. However, as noted, in a very small number of incidents facilities and vehicles were unintentionally hit.
In relation to the scale of fighting and the threat posed by Hamas, the damage caused to UN facilities and vehicles was relatively limited as a result of the various precautionary measures taken by the IDF. The small number of incidents where damage was unfortunately caused occurred first and foremost as a result of Hamas’ doctrine. Hamas as well as other terrorist organizations chose to fight under the cover of sensitive humanitarian facilities.
It should be noted that in one incident where it was found that a UN vehicle was fired upon in a breach of the IDF’s rules of engagement, the soldier in question was court-martialed.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, was presented with the conclusions of the investigation. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also emphasized the importance of avoiding harm to UN and other international facilities. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi emphasized how important it is that IDF forces on all levels are familiarized with the locations of sensitive facilities within their assigned combat zone. He ordered that the regulations regarding safety-distances from sensitive facilities be highlighted, specifically with regard to the use of artillery. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also ordered that steps be taken to improve the coordination between the IDF and UN organizations working in the field, in the areas where it was lacking.
It should be noted that the incidents which were investigated by the IDF were also examined by the UN Board of Inquiry appointed by the UN Secretary General for the investigation of damage caused to UN facilities in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Despite the fact that the investigation by the IDF was initiated prior to the decision by the Secretary General to set up a UN committee of investigation, Israel cooperated with the UN committee and presented it with the findings of its investigation.
Claims regarding incidents involving shooting at medical facilities, buildings, vehicles and crews
The investigation was conducted by Col. Erez Katz, and looked into claims that the IDF fired on or attacked medical crews, facilities, structures and vehicles. Some of these claims were described in a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court during the operation. During the investigation, additional claims were identified and the investigation was expanded to also include these incidents.
The investigation showed that the Hamas systematically used medical facilities, vehicles and uniforms as cover for terrorist operations. This included the extensive use of ambulances to transport terror operatives and weaponry; the use of ambulances to “evacuate” terrorists from the battlefield and the use of hospitals and medical infrastructure as headquarters, situation-rooms, command centers, and hiding places.
For example, Ismail Haniyeh decided to place his central command center in one of the Shifa Hospital units, while the senior leaders (both military and political) stationed themselves in another unit. On the ground floor of the hospital’s main building, an entire wing was closed off and was solely used by Hamas terror operatives. At the wing’s entrance, terror operatives prevented entrance to all uninvolved civilians.
In other instances, Hamas terror operatives seized control sections of Al-Shafa Hospital. Hamas also took control of a Red Crescent medical clinic in Khan Yunis, converting it into a prisoner detention facility.
In testimony by an ambulance driver published in the Italian newspaper Corriere de la Serra the driver claimed that he was forced by Hamas to extract terror operatives from the fighting zone, with the knowledge that he could coordinate with the IDF to temporarily hold fire so that he could safely evacuate the wounded. Several instances were reported in which ambulances were witnessed carrying armed Hamas terror operatives alongside the medical crews.
This illegitimate and illegal use of medial facilities sometimes resulted in damage being caused to them.
After investigating the incidents it became clear that of the seven casualties reported during the incidents in question, five were Hamas operatives. In addition, it was determined that in some of the incidents in which medical vehicles were damaged, the vehicles were driven in a suspicious manner, without prior coordination with IDF forces and in some cases without being clearly marked (such as using flashing lights) . This caused, in some cases, the vehicle to be incorrectly identified, and aroused the suspicions of the forces that the vehicle might be used for a suicide attack.
In one example an IDF force sheltering in a structure in the Gaza Strip received a concrete warning that terrorist elements intend to execute an attack against the force. Following the warning, the force identified an ambulance driving speedily towards the structure, bypassing a roadblock. The force took a number of warning measures (including the firing of warning shots in the air) which failed to bring the ambulance to a halt. The ambulance continued to progress towards the structure and reached the threatening distance of 50 meters from the structure, at which point the force fire in towards it. Only then did the vehicle turn around and drive off in the other direction.
In a separate incident, an ambulance was identified driving towards a shelter occupied by IDF forces, late at night, without any prior coordination, clear markings or flashing lights, raising suspicion that it was a car bomb. The force fired warning shots into the air, followed by warning shots near the vehicle. When the vehicle was only 100 meters away from the force, constituting a serious threat to the force, the force opened fire on it. In this incident as well, only then did the vehicle halt, turn around and drive away in the other direction.
In two of the incidents investigated (which were both mentioned in the Supreme Court appeal), it turned out that members of the medical crew who were supposedly "hit" in the incident – are alive and well. With regards to other incidents, the investigation could not find any evidence that they took place (likewise, at the time of some of the alleged incidents the, IDF was not operating at the location in question).
The investigation looked into an incident in which a building containing a mother-and-child clinic was attacked by the IDF. It became clear that Hamas used the same building as a weapons storage facility. The attack was aimed against the weapons storage facility. The investigation further showed that the clinic was not signposted in a way that made it possible to identify that building contained a medical facility. Nevertheless, the investigation clarified that the residents of the building were given a warning prior to the attack. Given that the IDF was not aware that there was a clinic located there, there was no intention to hit it.
The investigation also showed that IDF forces at all levels were directed to take extra caution to avoid harming medical crews and facilities, and in many cases ceased to operate when there was a medical vehicle or medical staff present in their area of operation. The forces took extraordinary care, as obliged by international law and in some incidents even refrained from attacking “medical vehicles” even when it was clear that they were in fact being used by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the fighting. The investigation clearly showed that the forces were well aware of, and respected the special status given to medical crews, vehicles, structures and facilities. In addition, the orders relating to the use of force near medical vehicles were strengthened during the operation, making the IDF regulations stricter than those obliged by international law.
In addition, the investigation noted that the IDF operated a medical situation room in the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison, which coordinated the evacuation of bodies, the wounded and trapped civilians from the combat zone. During the operation, the medical situation room coordinated 150 different requests.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, accepted the recommendations made by the Head of the investigation, stating that the awareness of the importance of preventing harm to medical crews, facilities and vehicles must be preserved. These issues should be practiced by all forces in "incidents and responses" drills. Finally, the Chief of the General Staff ordered an examination of the operation of the humanitarian corridor which was opened for the benefit of the local population during the fighting.
Towards the conclusion of the investigation, the IDF received additional claims relating to allegations of firing upon medical facilities and vehicles. These claims are currently being investigated.
Claims regarding incidents in which many uninvolved civilians were harmed
The investigation was conducted by Col. Tamir Yidai and looked into seven incidents in which it was claimed, civilians were harmed by the IDF. This is a highly sensitive matter, for any loss of human life is unfortunate. This is especially true for the IDF, an ethical army that emphasizes the values of human life and the purity of arms. The investigation reached the conclusion that that in all of the incidents which were examined, IDF forces did not intentionally attack civilians who were not involved in the fighting.
In circumstances where there existed the risk of unintentionally harming uninvolved civilians, the IDF took many measures to minimize this risk, including the use of precise intelligence and providing warnings prior to the attack.
During the incidents in question, IDF operations did cause harm to uninvolved civilians. However, the results of this investigation make it clear that this was not intentional, but the result of circumstances beyond the control of the forces or due to unexpected operational mistakes. A significant proportion of the incidents occurred as a result of Hamas’ illegitimate use of its own civilians. The Hamas took cover amongst the civilian population and used civilians facilities and structures as part of its terrorist operation against Israel.
The incidents which were investigated:
• The attack on the house of senior Hamas operative Nazar Ri’an (January 4th, 2009) – The investigation showed that Ri’an’s house was attacked due to its use by Hamas for storing large quantities of sophisticated weapons. Prior to the attack, the forces took a long series of measures to avoid harming uninvolved civilians (It must be stressed that Ri’an could have been considered a legitimate military target due to his central role in the planning and executing terror attacks, was not the target of the attack. The target was the weapons storage facility located in his home). These measures included a phone call notifying of the planned attack, the firing of preliminary warning shots using light weapons, waiting a sufficient period of time to allow the residents of the house to evacuate, and the identification of a group of people exiting the house. Only at that point, after all indications led to the conclusion that the building was empty, was the house targeted. It was later discovered that for unknown reasons, Ri’an and his family stayed in the building in spite of the many warnings and lengthy period of time allowed for their evacuation. Secondary explosions were clearly visible following the attack, proving that the building was used as for weapons storage.
• The attack on the house of Dr. Abu el Eish (January 17th, 2009) – The investigation showed that an IDF force identified suspicious figures on the third floor of the building, raising suspicions that the figures were observing IDF forces in order to direct sniper fire from another building. This was a method of action used by Hamas throughout the operation. Prior to firing at the snipers and the spotters, the regional commander took a series of measures to ensure that the suspicious figures were gunmen and that no civilians would be endangered by the attack. Accordingly, the commander waited 20 minutes before ordering the attack. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts made, four women who were in the same house as the spotters were hit.
It should be noted that Israeli security forces urged Dr. Abu el Eish to leave his house and the combat zone in the days prior to the incident, but he chose to remain in his house in spite of the clear risk.
• Truck apparently carrying oxygen tanks (December 29th, 2008) – the truck was targeted after the accumulation of information which indicated convincingly that it was carrying rockets between a known Hamas rocket manufacturing facility to a known rocket launching site. The attack was carried out near a known Hamas rocket manufacturing site and after a launch. It was only later discovered that the truck was carrying oxygen tanks (similar in appearance to Grad Missiles) and not rockets. The strike killed four Hamas operatives and four uninvolved civilians. It is important to note that the oxygen tanks being carried in the truck were likely to be used by Hamas for rocket manufacturing.
• The Al-Daia family residence in the Zeitoun neighborhood in the city of Gaza (January 6th, 2009) – the incident in question was a result of an operational error with unfortunate consequences. The investigation concluded that the IDF intended to attack a weapons storage facility that was located in the building next to the Al-Daia family residence. It appears that following an error, the structure that was planned to be attacked was the Al-Daia residence rather than the building containing the weapons. The house that was actually attacked (the Al-Daia residence) did receive a number of warnings beforehand, including the preliminary firing of ammunition which causes little damage and the use of the "Knock on the Roof" special warning method. However, due to the mistake in identifying the building, the warning phone call was received prior the attack by the residents of the building containing the weapons storage, not the Al-Daia residence. This may have been the reason that the Al Daia family did not leave the house before it was mistakenly hit it. This is a highly unfortunate event with severe consequences. It was ultimately caused by a professional mistake of the type that can take place during intensive fighting in a crowded environment against an enemy that uses civilians as cover for its operations.
In addition to the abovementioned incidents, the head of the investigation looked into two incidents in which it was claimed that attacks directed at mosques lead to the deaths of uninvolved civilians. With regard to the first incident, relating to a strike against the "Maqadme" mosque in Beit-Lehiya on January 3rd, 2009, it was discovered that as opposed to the claims, the mosque was not attacked at all. Furthermore, it was found that the supposed uninvolved civilians who were the casualties of the attack were in fact Hamas operatives killed while fighting against the IDF. The second incident, regarding a supposed strike that hit the "Rabat" mosque in Bet Lehiya on January 9th, 2009 – no testimony of any IDF forces operating in the area was found. The mosque is still standing unharmed.
In all of the incidents investigated, there were no breaches of international law, and in some of them it was clear that the actions of the IDF were in fact stricter than those demanded under international law. As in any combat situation, and specifically when fighting a terrorist organization that uses its own people as human shields, the investigation discovered isolated failures, some of which lead to the harming of civilians.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff determined that even in those unfortunate incidents in which the investigation showed that the IDF operated in a way that caused harm to uninvolved civilians, the harm was not intentional and was caused despite measures that were taken to prevent it. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi ordered that clear regulations and orders be made on the basis of the conclusions of the investigation.
It must be added that the IDF is currently looking into a series of additional claims that were made against it. Upon the completion of an initial inquiry into these events, it will be decided whether they will be further investigated, in accordance with the facts and IDF investigations policy.
The use of weaponry containing phosphorous components
This investigation, which was conducted by Col. Shai Alkalai, focused on the use of munitions containing phosphorous components in Operation Cast Lead throughout the duration of the operation.
The investigation found that IDF forces used two different types of munitions containing white phosphorous.
It was found that during the operation, a very limited amount of the first type was used by ground and naval forces. The munitions included mortar shells fired by ground forces (not artillery shells) and 76mm rounds fired from naval vessels. These munitions contained phosphorous as the active ingredient and are not intended to create smoke screens. The use of such munitions is legal under international law subject to certain limitations derived from their incendiary capabilities. The investigation showed that use of these munitions was done so in accordance with these limitations – they were only fired at open areas and were used for marking and range-finding rather than in an anti-personnel capacity. In one single incident, in an open uninhabited area, ammunition containing phosphorous was used to uncover tunnel entrances.
Let it be reemphasized that no phosphorus munitions were used on built-up areas or for anti-personnel purposes.
As a precautionary measure, even though international law does not prohibit the use of such means, as of January 7th 2009, it was decided that in order to further minimize the risk to civilians from munitions containing phosphorous, the IDF would cease to use the munitions containing larger quantities of phosphorous (i.e. those not used for smoke screening). All IDF forces were directed to act accordingly.
The investigation discovered that phosphorous munitions which contained phosphorous intended for purposes other than smoke screening were used after January 7th 2009 on two occasions, by ground forces and the Israel Navy respectively, for marking purposes. These two exceptions were looked into during the investigation, which found that on both the incidents there was no breach of any of the rules of international law.
It must be stressed that the ammunition containing phosphorous used by the IDF is standard, legal and is used by other western militaries worldwide, including states who are signatories of the Third Protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The investigation showed that the use of white phosphorous made by the IDF was in accordance with Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law and more specifically, the obligations with regard to munitions with incendiary characteristics.
Most of the munitions containing phosphorus which were used during the operation were of a second type, and contained pieces of felt dipped in phosphorous in a manner that is not intended to cause injuries and which are non-incendiary, and are used exclusively to create smoke screens. Moreover, these are munitions which conform in full, with international law. In addition, the limitations under international law on the use of "incendiary munitions” do not apply to this type of munitions.
In this context is should be emphasized that the Third Protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which defines specific limitations on the use of “incendiary munitions”, clearly states that smoke obscurants are not considered "incendiary munitions". Israel is not a party to the Third Protocol, but it should be noted that even states that are a party to the Protocol make use of smoke shells which contain a small quantity of phosphorous for the purpose of smoke obscuration.
The use made by the IDF of obscurant smoke shells was for military requirements only (e.g. camouflaging armored forces from anti-tank squads deployed by Hamas in Gaza’s urban areas). This use was in accordance with international law, while balancing between operational and humanitarian considerations. The use of smoke obscurants proved to be a very effective means and in many cases prevented the need to use explosive munitions whose impact would have been considerably more dangerous.
After having being presented with the conclusions of the investigation, the Chief of the General Staff emphasized the importance of a clear doctrine and commands on the issue of various munitions which contain phosphorous. In addition, Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi ordered that any use of phosphorous for purposes other than smoke obscuration be treated as exceptional.
Damage to infrastructure and destruction of buildings by ground forces
This investigation, carried out by Col. Adam Zusman, focused on issues relating to the infrastructure operations and the demolishing of structures by the IDF forces during the ground operations phase of Operation Cast Lead. During the investigation the commanders of the forces that participated in the operation were questioned in relation to the issues being investigated. In addition, the investigation gathering data from relevant institutions and examined the relevant military orders.
The investigation showed that Hamas based its main line of defense on civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip (i.e. buildings, infrastructure, agricultural lands etc.), and specifically on booby trapped structures (mostly residential), the digging of explosive tunnels and tunnels intended for the moving of people and weaponry. This created an above ground and underground deployment in the Gaza Strip’s urban areas by Hamas. During the operation, IDF forces were forced not only to fight the gunmen themselves, but to also deal with the physical terrorist infrastructure prepared by the Hamas and other terrorist organizations in advance. As part of this challenge, the forces demolished structures that threatened the forces and had to be removed – houses which were used by the enemy; other structures used by the enemy for terrorist activity; structures that prevented the forces from moving from one area to another (given that many of the roads were booby trapped); structures that were used to protect Israeli soldiers; agricultural elements used as cover for enemy tunnels and infrastructure; and infrastructure next to the security fence used by Hamas for operations against IDF forces or for digging tunnels into Israeli territory.
IDF operations which were intended to demolish booby trapped or structures rigged with explosives (and other similar operations) successfully prevented the enemy from detonating these structures while IDF forces were in them, despite the enormous efforts made by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, who rigged a substantial number of buildings to explode in the areas where the IDF operated.
The investigation shows that in all the areas of operation, the decision to authorize the demolishing of houses was only made by high ranking officers. In addition, the destruction of buildings was only initiated after it was determined by the forces that they were vacant. As a result, as far as the investigation was able to determine, no uninvolved civilians were harmed during the demolition of infrastructure and buildings by IDF forces.
The investigation showed that in many cases, the preparations made by Hamas and other terrorist organizations were responsible for the significant damage caused to houses. This was due to the secondary explosions caused by the detonation of explosive devices or weaponry placed by Hamas within the structures. This was illustrated by an incident which was investigated, in which a building in one of Gaza’s northern neighborhoods was fired upon, resulting in the unexpected detonation of a chain of explosive devices planted by Hamas, damaging many other buildings in the neighborhood.
The investigation showed that the orders and directions given with regard to damage to property during the operation, at all levels, emphasized that all demolition operations should be carried out in a manner which would minimize to the greatest extent possible the damage caused to any property not used by Hamas and other terror organizations in the fighting. During the investigation it was apparent that that this issue was not stressed sufficiently in the written plans for the operation. However, the investigation clearly showed that the forces in the field understood in which circumstances structures or infrastructure could be demolished as well as the limitations relating to demolitions.
The investigations did not identify any instances of intentional harm done to civilian infrastructure and with the exception of a single incident (which was immediately halted by the relevant Brigade Commander, and was dealt with using disciplinary measures) it didn’t find any incidents in which structures or property were damaged as "punishment" or without an operational justification. In all of the areas in which the IDF operated, the level of damage to the infrastructure was proportional, and did not deviate from that which was required to fulfill the operational requirements.
Overall, the extent of damage caused to buildings was a direct result of the extensive use by Hamas of those same buildings for terrorist purposes and targeting IDF forces.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi accepted the recommendation made by the head of the investigation to create clear regulations and orders with regard to the issue of demolition of infrastructure and structures as well as a clear combat doctrine. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also accepted the recommendation that the combat doctrine should include a definition of relevant "incidents and responses" to be distributed amongst all combat forces. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also accepted the recommendation to create a clear procedure of documentation and reporting for such operations. The conclusion that the extent of the demolished infrastructure and building was proportionate, in light of the operational requirements, was also approved by the IDF Chief of the General Staff.