The trial of two combat soldiers accused of forcing a nine-year-old Palestinian boy to open bags suspected to contain explosives during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza commenced Wednesday at a Southern Command military court.
"I feel hurt and betrayed; they stabbed me in the back after what I gave to the country. The army was looking for someone to blame for the whole world to see and chose soldiers who did nothing wrong," said staff sergeant A., one of the defendants.
The two staff sergeants, who belong to a Givati Brigade reserves unit, are being charged with overstepping authority and conduct unbecoming. The charges are considered light and do not carry a criminal record. The maximum penalty for overstepping authority is one year in prison.
"I guess they don’t understand who is for and who is against the country," A. said, adding that he was shocked by the decision to file an indictment against him a year after he had completed his army service.
"The brigade's commanders were also surprised," he said, "They are supporting me and backing me up. I hope this process ends as soon as possible and not harm my civilian life."
The father of one of the defendant's said, "These are combat soldiers who - despite being in a very difficult situation - acted in a very moral manner… in a situation in which the enemy used civilians (as shields).
"They did not hurt anyone, and I think the military establishment has blown this whole affair out of proportion," he said.
Attorney Ilan Katz, for the defendants, said, "At worst, this is a case of bad judgment. No one was hurt in this incident. The soldiers stood next to the boy and could have been hurt themselves. The system was quick to charge them and operated in a hasty manner. During the trial I intend to expose the holes in the prosecution's case."