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The Israeli military has concluded that no war crimes were committed during its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip, dismissing as "hearsay" the testimonies of soldiers who allegedly admitted intentionally killing Palestinian civilians.
Closing an investigation into wrongful shootings, the Israeli army declared soldiers' confessions relating to two incidents were "purposely exaggerated" and not supported by facts.
One case involved the killing of an elderly woman by a rooftop sniper, and another involved a sniper fatally shooting a mother and two children who had entered a no-go zone.
After talking to soldiers who made the claims, Israeli military investigators concluded that the two incidents never took place and that the young men who made the allegations had embellished the stories during a seminar at a military preparatory school.
The military police found that "crucial components of their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by specific personal knowledge", the army said in a statement.
More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including more than 900 civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which published a list of names of the dead. Israel has said the toll was lower, and the "vast majority" of the dead were militants. But it did not publish a list to support the assertion.
In a joint statement, nine Israeli rights groups said the decision to close the investigation without bringing charges "only strengthens the need for the attorney general to allow for an independent nonpartisan investigative body to be established in order to look into all Israeli army activity" in Gaza.
Defense minister, Ehud Barak, said the investigation showed that Israel possesses "the most moral army in the world".