Prime Suspects: Investigating Israeli War Crimes in Gaza

These are the officers and commanders responsible for executing Israel's war in Gaza. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity. Here are the prime suspects.

The Prime Suspects

DAWN submitted to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) a list of over 40 individual Israeli military officers who were involved in the first five weeks of the war Israel declared following the Hamas attacks of October 7, 2023. Each individual officer had command responsibility over units involved in the fighting or bombardment of Gaza between October 8, 2023 and November 13, 2023, or were involved in imposing the siege on Gaza in that time.

Each "Prime Suspect" card includes the name, rank, photo, and role of an individual Israeli commander. DAWN compiled the list of officers exclusively from official Israeli military publications that confirmed the presence of specific military units in specific locations at specific times. (One entry only was verified through a television interview with a commanding officer of the unit in question.) The list includes officers from the rank of lieutenant-general and up who command units no smaller than battalion level forces. It covers nearly all branches of the Israeli military, as well as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the unit that administers the siege on Gaza.

DAWN is publishing individual "Prime Suspect" cards identifying each officer on a rolling basis on this page.

At the top of the list of suspects is Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. On October 9, 2023, Gallant ordered a complete siege on Gaza City, cut off the supply of potable water to the entire population of the Gaza Strip — over 2 million people — and blocked the entry of humanitarian aid. "We are fighting human animals and we'll act accordingly," the defense minister said, explaining the decision. One day later, he told Israeli troops on the Gaza border: "I have released all the restraints," and, "They will regret this moment, Gaza will never return to what it was." "[C]ivilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation," warned Cindy McCain, director of the UN's World Food Program (WFP), on November 16, 2023.

Also included is the head of COGAT (the Israeli military's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian. Maj. Gen. Alian is responsible for administering the siege of Gaza, and was responsible for cutting off the supply of water, food, and fuel in the early days of the war. On October 10, 2023, Alian said in an Arabic-language video message to the civilian population of Gaza that Israel was imposing a total blockade, "no electricity, no water, just damage," adding a chilling warning, "you wanted hell, you will get hell."

Intentionally depriving civilians of basic necessities, including by blocking or even impeding the provision of humanitarian relief supplies, is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the ICC. Intentionally targeting medical facilities, ambulances, places of worship, places of culture, and most seriously the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas — are crimes in the Rome Statute.

The initial list also includes Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Dvir Edri, the commander of the 460th Armored Brigade, which DAWN confirmed participated in combat operations in Northern Gaza on November 4, 2023. Between noon November 4 and noon November 5, according to data published by the UN, 243 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. Infantry, combat engineering, and armored forces like those under the command of Lt. Col. Edri have been documented attacking protected civilian sites such as hospitals, houses of worship, and schools. They have been involved in the forcible displacement of over 1 million Palestinians, the total siege of the northern Gaza Strip which likely constitutes the crime of using starvation as a weapon, and hindering humanitarian aid — all war crimes.

The publication is not a comprehensive list of every Israeli military commander involved in the war. Nor does it provide conclusive evidence of each individual's personal culpability. However, the list of identified Israeli officials serves as a repository of the prime Israeli suspects the ICC prosecutor (or any war crimes prosecutor) should consider in its ongoing investigation into violations of the Rome Statute in this war, given their role in ordering and executing Israeli attacks in Gaza in the current conflict.

The ICC prosecutor has already indicated that he is investigating Hamas officials for the attacks of October 7, 2023, stating that the atrocities Hamas militants committed "cannot go uninvestigated and they cannot go unpunished." Israel has publicly identified Hamas suspects and is reportedly planning to put the hundreds of Hamas militants it has captured on trial for the October 7 attacks.

Furthermore, Israel is attempting to conceal the identities of many of its officers involved in the fighting by publishing only their first names and hiding their faces in many publicly available materials. The IDF fully identified many of those same officers in publications just weeks and months earlier.

Israel has fired 140,000 munitions into Gaza in this war, "60 percent of them artillery rounds and 40 percent weapons dropped from aircraft," according to data published by Newsweek. At the time of writing on December 19, 2023, the United Nations reported that 19,453 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, 2023, 70 percent of whom it estimated were women and children. The UN estimates that as many as 1.9 of the Gaza Strip's 2.3 million people are internally displaced, warning that its shelters are housing an average of 12,400 people—more than four times their capacity. Nearly 1,200 Israelis were killed in the Hamas attacks of October 7, 2023, over 750 of whom were civilians. Hamas and other Palestinian groups also kidnapped an estimated 250 people from Israel, the majority of whom are believed to be civilians. Hamas has released over 100 hostages in a prisoner exchange deal with Israel and is believed to be holding more than 100 more. DAWN has previously called for the unconditional release of all civilian captives.

If you have information on the identify of Israeli officers commanding brigade level units or officers holding the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher in the Gaza war, or to provide information about suspected war criminals, email DAWN's secure tipline (PGP key available here).

"These 40 IDF commanders who have been responsible for planning, ordering, and executing Israel's indiscriminate bombardment, wanton destruction, and mass killing of civilians in Gaza should be prime suspects in any ICC investigation. While Israel has done its best to conceal the identities of many of its officers, they should be put on notice that they face individual criminal liability for the crimes underway in Gaza." 

- Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN's executive director

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