The Israeli Defence Force's Criminal Investigation Division has recently commenced an investigation of alleged use of a procedure known as cellphone routine" by officers and enlisted soldiers of the Givati Brigade during the Cast Lead operation in the Gaza strip, sources told Walla! News. The routine is an alleged order to initiate arrest protocols against every Palestinian holding a cellphone a procedure that ends with a permission to shoot.
According to the CID's suspicions, soldiers have opened fire and shot Palestinians talking on their phones in numerous cases, some of which were documented in reports published after the operation. It appears the motive for the use of the routine was fear of remote activation of IEDs (mprovised explosive devices) via phone, or disclosing the IDF's positions.
During the past few weeks, numerous officers and enlisted men of the Givati Brigade were called in for questioning, and have said that the order included a verbal request to put the phone down. If the Palestinians kept hold of the phone, the soldiers were authorized to shoot in the air. If the phone remained in the hands of the Palestinians after that, or if they were trying to handle the phone in any way, the soldiers were told to aim for the body. The investigation started after one of the brigade's officers, who was under investigation for an unrelated matter, told his investigators about the routine. At this time, it is unclear whether the routine was used in every company of the Givati Brigade, and who gave the order.
"The appropriate conclusions will be drawn"
During the course of the investigation, the IDF CID are trying to connect the use of the "cellphone routine" to known cases of Palestinians getting killed or wounded, which were mentioned in international reports composed after operation Cast Lead. About two weeks ago, Colonel Ilan Malka, the commander of the Givati Brigade during the operation, was called in for questioning. Malka was questioned about his involvement in the bombing of the A-Smoni family's home in Gaza an incident in which 21 Palestinians were killed. He may have been questioned about the "cellphone routine" as well.
The IDF has confirmed there is an investigation into the matter, and a spokesman told Walla! News that "An investigation into the matter is ongoing. After it ends, the appropriate conclusions will be drawn." Since the completion of operation Cast Lead, numerous Givati soldiers were charged for involvement in offences against Palestinians. One soldier was convicted of stealing a credit card from a house in which he stayed, and two soldiers were recently convicted of using the child routine: forcing a child to open suspicious bags during a search in a house.
After the story was published, IDF spokesperson commented that "A procedure of the sort mentioned in the article isn't known to us, and wasn't mentioned in active CID investigation. During an investigation which is still ongoing, a single event of shooting towards a person holding a cellular phone was mentioned, but that person was suspected to be a threat to the force. As was said earlier, this is a specific event, which is still under investigation, and so we are unable to elaborate on it. In any case, there surely hasn't been any procedure such as the one mentioned in the article".