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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem August 12, 2018. Jim Hollander /Pool via Reuters

(reuters_tickers)

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will not conduct a criminal investigation into a deadly raid in Rafah during the 2014 Gaza war, the military's judicial arm said on Wednesday after a "comprehensive examination" of events, prompting condemnation from the Palestinian group Hamas.

Israel launched its raid after Hamas militants, emerging from a tunnel inside Gaza, ambushed three Israeli soldiers, killing two and seizing the third.

In their air and artillery bombardment Israeli forces killed 150 people in a matter of hours as they tried to retrieve the third soldier who was also killed.

"The findings clearly provide that the Israel Defence Force's (IDF) actions were aimed to serve a clear military purpose – to thwart the abduction of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin and attack the terror organizations in the area, by targeting military targets and military operatives," the judicial body, the Military Advocate General, said in a statement.

Goldin was believed at the time of the raid to still be alive, it said, adding that operations had been conducted "with an effort to mitigate, as much as possible, harm to civilians".

The investigation found no evidence to suggest the IDF had intended to exact revenge for the abduction, it said.

Hamas condemned the decision.

"This emphasises the unfairness of the Israeli inquiry and the need for an international investigation committee to probe Israel's crimes in Rafah and in all the Gaza Strip and Palestinian lands," Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

As well as the 150 people killed on August 1, 2014, medics in Gaza said around 200 were wounded, the majority civilians. It was the deadliest day of the seven-week conflict, in which more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed, as well as 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel.

Hamas has still not returned the remains of Goldin and another soldier killed in the 2014 war. Israel is also demanding the release of two civilians whose fate is unknown and who it says are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

A detailed report on the incident can be found on the following link: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-gaza-warcrime-insight/did-israels-hannibal-directive-lead-to-a-war-crime-in-gaza-idUSKCN0I20FN20141013

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Writing by Ori Lewis, Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Reuters