Army clears troops in ’06 Gaza killings

An Israeli army investigation cleared troops involved in the firing of a shell that killed 21 Palestinian civilians.
The deaths, in September 2006, spurred international outrage and a visit to the Gaza Strip by South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

“The decision to fire artillery at launching sites in the area near Beit Hanun” in the northern Gaza Strip “from which Kassam rockets were fired at Israel previously was carried out following credible and specific intelligence information, indicating the intention of the terrorist organizations to fire rockets from this area,” said a military statement Wednesday describing the conclusions of the investigation by Gen. Avichai Mendlblit, the army’s advocate general.

The shell was off target by a half-kilometer – about 546 yards – the report said, hitting two buildings and killing the civilians.

“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,” the statement said.

The army has taken measures to prevent a repeat of the malfunction.

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