Israel’s military prosecution announced yesterday that no legal steps would be taken against those responsible for the killing of 21 members of the Samouni family during Operation Cast Lead in 2009.
A letter was received by the human rights group B’Tselem from Major Dorit Tuval, Deputy Military Advocate for Operational Matters. Tuval said that the case was closed after an investigation found that the attack on the civilians, “who did not take part in the fighting,” and their killing were not done knowingly and directly, or out of haste and negligence “in a manner that would indicate criminal responsibility.”
The investigation focused on the bombing on 5 January, 2009, during the ground offensive stage of the three-week operation, of a home in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighbourhood which killed 21 members of the Samouni family. The case was highlighted in the Goldstone Report – which investigated alleged Israeli war crimes during the operation. Last year Judge Richard Goldstone in a Washington Post op-ed admitted that his “fact-finding mission had no evidence” for the key allegations made in the UN report that bears his name – including the claim that Israel intentionally targeted civilians “as a matter of policy”.
B’Tselem activists have condemned the decision and called for an alternative investigatory body to probe such incidents. In response, attorney Yael Stein, B’Tselem’s head of research, said: “It is unacceptable that no one is found responsible for an action of the army that led to the killing of 21 uninvolved civilians, inside the building they were in under soldiers’ orders, even if not deliberately. The way the army has exempted itself of responsibility in this case, even if only to accept the severity of the event and clarify its circumstances, even if accidental, is outrageous.”