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Gaza War Leaks Stir Soul-Searching in Israel

Gaza War Leaks Stir Soul-Searching in Israel

Leaks from last summer’s Gaza war dramatize the forces at play here when democracy and commitment to international law appear to clash with obligations to those fighting on the fog-laden front lines.

Israeli combat recordings from a particularly fierce battle initiated by Hamas during one of the many short-lived cease fires of the war highlight complex operational, social and legal questions that extend far beyond the terror tunnels of southern Gaza where it all began.

Questions dramatized in the clips have become campaign fodder in the run-up to March 17 elections, while the substance of the leaked recordings may be used to support criminal probes here and possibly the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

They involve issues of command responsibility; rules of engagement; and the rights of individuals who make up Israel’s People’s Army when measured against the collective benefit of the public at large.

They also involve limitations of military censorship in a country that celebrates free press.

And finally, actions taken in the aftermath of that Aug. 1 battle call into question the independence of the military advocate general (MAG), a general officer appointed by the defense minister, yet subordinate only to Israel’s attorney general.

Known here as Bloody Friday, the Aug. 1 battle began with an ambush that killed two Israeli infantrymen and caused one to go missing. Troops at the scene pursued Hamas operatives into the tunnels built by the organization as subterranean staging grounds.

In parallel, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) activated its Hannibal protocol, allowing massive force to thwart an abduction in progress, even at the risk to the life of the soldier they sought to save.

The mission failed to retrieve the missing comrade, but evidence recovered from the mission allowed forensics experts to subsequently conclude that the soldier, 2nd Lt. Hadar Golden, had been killed in the initial attack.

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