UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A new Israeli report on the 2008-2009 war in the Gaza Strip says that Israel’s army is taking steps to reduce the number of civilian casualties in future wars and will restrict the use of white phosphorous.
The 37-page report, which was posted on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s website, was delivered to the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday in compliance with a General Assembly resolution, U.N. officials said.
“The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has ... implemented operational changes in its orders and combat doctrine designed to further minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian property in the future,” the report said.
“In particular, the IDF has adopted important new procedures designed to enhance the protection of civilians in urban warfare, for instance by further
emphasizing that the protection of civilians is an integral part of an IDF commander’s mission,” it said.
Among those measures will be the inclusion of a humanitarian affairs officer in each combat unit.
About 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and 13 Israelis were killed in Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza
Strip that was aimed at ending cross-border rocket fire from Palestinian militants.
A U.N. report by a team headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone was issued in September and found that both the Israeli army and the militant Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, were guilty of war crimes in the conflict but focused more on Israel.
The Jewish state, which refused to cooperate with Goldstone, has condemned his report as distorted and biased and rejected the war crimes allegations.
Hamas denied its fighters committed war crimes but has said it regrets Israeli civilian deaths.
The report also said Israel has launched some 47 criminal investigations into alleged misconduct by its soldiers in the Gaza war, 11 more than in January.
A November 2009 resolution of the 192-nation General Assembly demanded that the Israelis and Palestinians credibly investigate allegations of war crimes during the conflict.
The Palestinian Authority’s U.N. delegation also submitted a progress report to Ban’s office, but it was not immediately available. The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has no influence over Gaza and is unable to investigate Hamas.
Israel said in the report it was planning to impose restrictions on using white phosphorous weapons, smoke-screening munitions that can cause serious burns.
In response to criticism of its use of white phosphorous during the Gaza war, the IDF implemented mandatory buffer zones of several hundred meters and restricted use of it near sensitive sites. The report said the use of white phosphorous remains legal, though the IDF did conduct a review of its use.
“As a consequence, the IDF is in the process of establishing permanent restrictions on the use of munitions containing white phosphorus in urban areas,” the report said.
The United Nations has yet to react to the Israeli report.
Israel is under pressure to accept another international investigation into a deadly May 31 raid on a flotilla of aid ships that attempted to break through the
Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. The raid left nine Turkish pro-Palestinian protesters dead.
The Jewish state has launched its own investigation into the incident but Ban wants an independent probe that includes Turkish and Israeli participation. Israel has reacted coolly to the idea, saying its own investigation will be sufficient.
Editing by Stacey Joyce