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Israeli Aid Worker Inquiry Compromised by Ties to IDF Mass Killing Doctrine

Yoav Har-Even’s direct involvement in supporting the IDF operation in Gaza, despite also being tasked to lead the investigation into the conduct of the operation, is an obvious conflict of interest

Yoav Har-Even. Photo: Elad Gershgorn

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The head of the IDF’s internal inquiry into the killings of aid workers holds direct ties to the IDF operation in Gaza, including to senior Israeli military figures behind military practices which legitimise the targeted mass killing of civilians in pursuit of military objectives, Byline Times can exclusively reveal.

The connections raise urgent questions about the conclusions of the inquiry, which identified “grave errors” behind the IDF actions and sacked two senior officers.

In early April, seven British, Australian, US-Canadian, Polish and Palestinian aid workers with the World Central Kitchen (WCK) were targeted and killed by IDF drone strikes.

The IDF immediately denied that the strikes were intentional. Following global outrage, the IDF launched an internal inquiry which found that the killings were a “grave accident” resulting from mistaken identity due to violations of IDF standard operating procedures.

However, Byline Times’ investigation reveals that retired Major General Yoav Har-Even, a former head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate who was tasked by the Israeli Government to lead the IDF’s internal investigation into the aid worker killings, has been directly involved in supporting the IDF military campaign in Gaza after the Hamas attack on 7 October 2023.

He also has ties to the key architects of the IDF’s ‘Dahiya doctrine’ – including incumbent Israeli Government War Cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot – which enshrines disproportionate mass violence against civilians into standard targeting procedures.

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Supporting Swords of Iron

Between 2016 and February 2024, Maj. Gen. Yoav Har-Even has served as CEO of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., one of the largest defence companies in Israel. Rafael was established in 1948 as part of the Israeli Ministry of Defence, and in 2002 was incorporated as an Israeli Government-owned limited company.

Yet Maj. Gen. Har-Even played a direct role in supporting Operation ‘Swords of Iron’, the official codename for Israel’s war across the Gaza Strip launched after the 7 October terror attack. As CEO of Rafael, he presided over a period of “intensive activity during Swords of Iron War” according to an official Rafael company report.

Har-Even was originally due to step down in December 2023, but extended his tenure to support the IDF war in Gaza. The chairman of Rafael’s board thanked him at the time for “his current efforts in the ‘Swords of Iron’ war.”

From December to February, Rafael “intensified its support for the IDF and the security system,” according to the company press release. “Efforts focused on accelerating supplies and implementing Rafael’s systems for the IDF… In addition, efforts were made to supply systems supporting the military effort”, including missile production and parts for the Trophy Active Protection System (APS) used in Challenger tanks in IDF ground operations:

“Rafael also continued to support the security establishment at the IDF bases and operational areas supporting use of the systems, identifying needs and providing immediate solutions while continuously upgrading the systems and integrating new operational capabilities in the midst of combat.”

Additionally, some 20% of Rafael employees were recruited into the IDF reserves.

The company press release confirms that Rafael’s Trophy APS “has been a critical asset enabling the ground maneuvering of IDF troops in Gaza.” Last year, Rafael conducted live tests of the Trophy system in collaboration with the UK Ministry of Defence.

Dahiya Doctrine

Yoav Har-Even’s direct involvement in supporting the IDF operation in Gaza, despite also being tasked to lead the investigation into the conduct of the operation, is an obvious conflict of interest which has been unreported until now.

Yet Har-Even also has direct ties to key Israeli military figures involved in the development and execution of the controversial ‘Dahiya doctrine’, an IDF military strategy for asymmetric warfare which exhorts the use of “disproportionate force” targeted at civilians and civilian infrastructure in pursuit of military objectives.

The doctrine is named after the Dahiya neighbourhood in Beirut, where civilian buildings were comprehensively pulverised by Israeli air power during the 2006 Lebanon war. Over 1,000 Lebanese people were killed, and one million Lebanese civilians displaced due to the destruction of civilian infrastructure by the IDF.

As an IDF Commander during the Lebanon War, Har-Even was directly involved in the execution of the Dahiya doctrine. The strategy of disproportionate force was later formally enshrined into standard Israeli military practices.

During Har-Even’s tenure, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems has been a longtime client of G.Bina, an Israeli security consulting firm founded and run by Colonel Gabi Sibon, one of the earliest architects of the ‘Dahiya doctrine’.

In 2008, the ‘Dahiya doctrine’ was first publicly articulated by then head of the IDF’s Northern Command Gadi Eisenkot, who had executed the strategy in 2006.

“What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on,” Eisenkot told the Israeli press in 2008. “We will apply disproportionate force and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.”

Eisenkot would go on to serve as the IDF’s twenty-first chief of staff from 2015 to 2019, and is currently a minister within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s War Cabinet. His Israeli National Unity party joined Netanyahu’s coalition government after the 7 October terrorist attack to form an emergency unity government.

Following Eisenkot’s comments in 2008, IDF Colonel Gabriel (Gabi) Siboni further spelt out the implications of the Dahiya doctrine in a paper that year for Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). The INSS is one of the most powerful think tanks in Israel with close ties to the Israeli military establishment.

In his paper titled Disproportionate Force: Israel’s Concept of Response in Light of the Second Lebanon War, Col. Siboni wrote:

“With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand a long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritise damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher. Punishment must be aimed at decision makers and the power elite… and should target economic interests and the centers of civilian power that support the organisation… This approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well.”

The INSS acknowledged at the time that the Dahiya doctrine was now formally part of “the IDF’s new response policy”.

The implications of the Dahiya doctrine for the IDF’s rules of engagement were later presented to the Knesset Committee for Foreign and Security Affairs during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) in Gaza: “The troops will be preceded by a ferocious pillar of fire. After the shooting, the warnings, anyone remaining in the area, in one of the most densely populated urban sites in the world is either a terrorist or knows the price to pay.”

Dahiya in Gaza

Rafael Advanced Defence System’s connection to Col. Siboni represents another set of undisclosed conflicts of interest for Yoav Har-Even due to Siboni’s extensive involvement in the Israeli military establishment.

In addition to Rafael, Siboni’s clients also include the Israeli Ministry of Defence and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

Col. Gabi Siboni has played a direct role in crafting the IDF’s military strategy and tactics. An active IDF consultant, he serves as Chief Methodologist of the IDF Research Centre for Force Utilisation and Buildup and a senior planner for the IDF’s Northern Command.

In 2019, Siboni and current war cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot co-authored a briefing on Israel’s national security strategy published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


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During the current war, Col. Siboni has openly supported the IDF’s policies of mass killings of civilians in Gaza while promoting flawed data underplaying the scale of IDF killings of Palestinian civilians during the conflict.

In a paper for the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS), Siboni drew on Dahiya doctrine thinking to justify the scale of violence against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza. In comments that genocidally conflate Hamas’ existence with the civilian population of Gaza, Siboni suggested that Gazan civilians represent a new generation of terrorists:

“Hamas is deeply embedded in the population of the Gaza Strip. Not only do Hamas terrorists receive support and assistance from the population, some of the ‘civilian’ population has intensified resistance and taken up arms against IDF forces. The events of Simchat Torah when a barbaric mob joined the Nukhba terrorists in carrying out the massacre in Gaza border communities, was not exceptional. In fact, this is a ‘popular’ war with the participation of civilians.

“The Gaza Strip has seen the emergence of a generation whose sole goal is to kill and exterminate Jews. In the face of this resistance, the IDF is succeeding in advancing methodically and systematically.”

Whitewashing the Civilian Casualty Ratio

Despite this justification for targeted mass killings of the civilian population of Gaza on the grounds that they can be presumed to be terrorists, Siboni also claimed that civilian casualties in Gaza are “the lowest in the world when compared to all the wars in urban areas in the past hundred years”, suggesting a ratio of 1.3 civilians for each Hamas terrorist killed (which he wrote is far lower than average ratios in other urban conflicts of 5-7 non-combatants for every dead combatant).

In contrast, independent research by London-based charity Action on Armed Violence found that on average the IDF was killing 10.1 civilians per air strike.

A recent report by +972 Magazine and Local Call based on former and active IDF sources shows that the civilian casualty ratio is even higher. According to the report, the IDF’s new AI ‘Lavender’ technology run by the IDF’s cyber-intelligence division, Unit 8200, permits the killing of up to 20 Palestinian civilians for every low-level Hamas operative.

A Compromised Inquiry

The extensive involvement of Yoav Har-Even in supporting the IDF’s war in Gaza – as well his longstanding connections to senior IDF generals who helped make the disproportionate targeting of civilians a key plank of the IDF’s approach to asymmetric warfare – raise urgent questions about the integrity of his investigation into the IDF’s killings of WCK.

The UK Government has so far accepted the findings of the IDF inquiry, with Foreign Secretary David Cameron saying: “Lessons must be learnt from today’s initial findings from the IDF. It’s clear major reform of Israel’s deconfliction mechanism is badly needed to ensure the safety of aid workers.” He also called for “a wholly independent review to ensure the utmost transparency and accountability.”

Byline Times’ investigation, however, indicates that the IDF inquiry cannot be taken at face value. Conducted by a senior IDF veteran embedded in Israel’s military establishment who himself participated in the Dahiya doctrine, the inquiry completely ignored how the IDF’s longstanding policy of disproportionate force against civilians could have played a critical role in the executions of WCK aid workers.

The Israeli Ministry of Defence declined to comment. The IDF, Rafael, G.Bina and the Foreign Office were contacted for comment.

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