Two Givati soldiers were convicted Sunday morning of commanding a 9-year old Palestinian boy to open suspicious bags during Operation Cast Lead in
Gaza. They had been charged with overstepping authority and conduct unbecoming.
Now the soldiers are in line to receive a prison sentence of up to three years. Parents and friends of the two showed up in court wearing shirts that said: We are all Goldstone's
The soldiers were convicted by a panel of three judges, who wrote in their verdict that the defendants were well aware they were violating rules of combat.
"At the very least the defendants turned a blind eye to the possibility that the boy will be hurt by their actions. The option of using a civilian, especially a child, was not among the legitimate options at the defendants' disposal," the judges wrote.
The soldiers were convicted of ordering the
boy to open a number of suitcases and bags that were found in a building located in the neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa, which they suspected may contain explosives.
Defendants in court (Photo: Eliad Levy)
The boy opened a number of bags and spread out their contents, and when he feared opening the last one they removed him from the vicinity and fired at it. He was then returned to his mother.
"Combat is no excuse for applying improper force. The two defendants, senior combat soldiers, used an innocent boy to open bags thought to contain explosive devices in a manner that does not behoove their position and army rank," the verdict says.
'We are all Goldstone's victims' (Photo: Eliad Levy)
The soldiers' commander, who was present at the trial, told Ynet that Givati's chief commander should have been there to support his soldiers. "Where are all the values we were taught?" he asked.
"Everyone is avoiding this case. When something goes wrong in combat, suddenly everyone disappears. These are two of the best soldiers in the unit and they put their own lives at risk."
"This is betrayal," said Ofer Ben-Shoshan, who served with the two. "They send us into combat and then leave us behind to deal with the consequences."
Meanwhile, friends pointed the finger at the military court. "I want to see this judge last one hour under fire, let alone two weeks. We'll see how she would act in such a situation, see how good her judgment would be," said Shay Cohen, who testified at the trial.
Nicole Ben-Shoshan, whose son serves in the unit, said that "the main lesson to be learned here is that every mother who sends her son into combat service should first and foremost hire an attorney to represent him".
Before the trial, which took place behind closed doors, the combat soldiers said they
felt betrayed by their commanders, who they say sent them on a highly dangerous mission and then rewarded them with an indictment despite the fact that no harm had actually been done.
During the trial, the soldiers' lawyer said the case reeked of the will to please the international community, which heaped criticism on Israel regarding the operation.
After the trial, the attorney said the soldiers had been persecuted "in order to get their testimonies and indict them as soon as possible so they could stand trial before their discharge".
Though the incident took place on January 15, 2009, the indictment was filed only in March, after the two had already been discharged from the elite unit in which they had been serving.