A Palestinian boy sleeps on a mattress inside the remains of his family's house
A Palestinian boy sleeps on a mattress inside the remains of his family’s house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during Operation Protective Edge. (photo credit:REUTERS)


The IDF on Sunday published a speech given by Magistrate Advocate General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni in which he heavily implied that the IDF was moving toward indicting its first high level officer for a war crimes related issue.

Efroni gave the speech last week at a legal conference in Tel Aviv, but his comments on the 2014 Gaza war crimes investigations have not been reported.

The incident he referred to was when an IDF unit under the command of Lt. Col. Neria Yeshurun allegedly improperly shelled a Gaza pharmacy where one of his officers had been recently killed.

The allegations are that Captain Dimitry Levitas was killed by Gaza fighters firing at him from a pharmacy in Shejaiya in July 2014.

Afterward, the day Levitas was buried, his commanding officer, Yeshurun, was recorded ordering his soldiers to fire a shell on the pharmacy as part of his eulogy to Levitas, allegedly in Levitas’ honor or to avenge his killing.

The law of armed conflict would have prohibited Gaza fighters from firing on the IDF from a civilian location such as a pharmacy.

It also would authorize the IDF to return fire on the pharmacy in real time if Gaza fighters were illegally firing from it, as the Gaza fighters’ use of the civilian location would potentially convert it to a military target.

But the law would not have allowed the IDF to target the pharmacy on a later date, if it was no longer being used militarily, simply to honor Levitas or avenge his killing.

Efroni began discussing his approach to investigating war crimes more generally, saying “it is our obligation to probe, and where necessary, to fully investigate exceptional incidents” (incidents where particular IDF soldiers may have violated its own rules or international law.)

He then moved on to commenting on the specific incident involving Yeshurun, “This is how I acted when I immediately ordered a full investigation into complaints of theft [by IDF soldiers of Palestinians] and also about reports about presumed illegal firing of shells on [presumed civilian] targets out of respect for the memory of a fallen IDF soldier. This is not our way!”

The MAG’s language was striking as the defendants in the theft cases have already been indicted and most consider there to be a high degree of likelihood of a conviction – and Efroni was connecting those cases to the case involving Yeshurun.

Yeshurun is not only being investigated, but was questioned under caution in July like a criminal suspect.

The IDF officer has claimed that his speech about honoring Levitas was not the reason for firing on the pharmacy, which he said was a military target following its use by Gaza fighters, but had merely been intended to boost troop morale.

Until Yeshurun is indicted, there is still a chance that he may only get a disciplinary rebuke for speaking out of turn, but after Efroni’s comments exclamatory remark of “this is not our way” it appears highly unlikely that Yeshurun will get off with less than a disciplinary rebuke and Efroni’s clear implication was even more grave – that he will be indicted like the theft-defendants.

If Yeshurun is indicted, he would be the first high level IDF commander to be indicted involving a war crimes allegation from the 2014 Gaza war.

A previous Channel 10 investigation of the incident said that there was no military activity at the pharmacy at the time that it was shelled, though it did not reveal the basis of its findings.

The IDF’s statements on the issue have not mentioned any civilian casualties on the Palestinian side, such that if Yeshurun was indicted and convicted, his sentence would be far less than if civilians had been harmed.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post