(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)
On November 8, 2006, an IDF shell hit two buildings in the town of Beit Hanoun, killing 21 Palestinian civilians and injuring additional others. As a result, former Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, appointed a committee, headed by former Deputy Head of the Ground Forces Command, Maj. Gen. Meir Califfee, to investigate the circumstances of the incident.
Following an extensive and thorough investigation, the Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendlblit, decided that the facts regarding the incident, presented by the committee, were detailed and clear, and that consequently there was no need to open a Military Police investigation into the matter. It was also decided that no legal action is to be taken against any military official regarding this incident.
The decision to fire artillery at launching sites in the area near Beit Hanoun, from which Kassam rockets had previously been fired at Israel, was carried out following credible and specific intelligence information, indicating the intention of the terrorist organizations to fire rockets from this area. The fire, aimed at one of the targets located over 450 meters away from the town’s borders, in fact hit two residential buildings and caused the death and injury of the Palestinians.
The investigation shows clearly that the injury of the Palestinian civilians was not intentional and was directly due to a rare and severe failure in the artillery fire control system operated at the time of the incident. This failure caused incorrect range-findings that lead, unknowingly, to fire at a different target then planned initially. This failure was discovered in an inquiry conducted following the incident, which showed that the failure was indeed an extremely rare malfunction that even the designated technicians of the control system had not encountered in the past. In light of these findings, it is not possible to point to a legal circumstantial connection, between the behaviors of the people involved in the incident and the result of the incident.
In light of all the circumstances, the Military Advocate General concluded that the behavior of the people involved in the incident was not substantially or severely negligent in a manner that would justify taking legal actions against them.
Following the incident, the most high ranking commanders and professionals formed lessons and conclusions in order to prevent such an event from recurring in the future. These conclusions have been implemented in the combat field since.