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Wreckage in Gaza after Cast Lead
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2 troops charged with endangering Palestinian boy
Indictment charges Givati soldiers who fought in Operation Cast Lead with overstepping authority, conduct unbecoming on suspicion they asked nine-year old Palestinian to open bags thought to contain explosives

A second indictment has been filed against soldiers who fought in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, this time accusing two Givati Brigade troops of asking a nine-year old Palestinian boy to open bags suspected to contain explosives.

 

The indictment is the first to make accusations regarding conduct having to do with combat. The previous indictment charged two soldiers, also from Givati, with looting of a credit card.

 

But an army official told Ynet Thursday that these indictments were only the first two in a series of charges regarding infractions committed during Cast Lead. "Soon additional, more serious indictments will be filed," he said.

 

The two staff sergeants are being charged with overstepping authority and conduct unbecoming, and are set to stand trial at the Southern Command's military court. The charges are considered light and do not carry a criminal record. The maximum penalty for overstepping authority is one year in prison.

 

Military police began investigating the incident in June of 2009, before the Goldstone Report was published. Officials say the investigation, like a number of others, is still ongoing.

 

More than 30 probes have been launched against soldiers since the Gaza offensive ended in the beginning of 2009. Half of the cases have been closed by the military prosecution, while the other half are nearing their termination and await a decision on whether indictments will be filed.

 

A special team led by Lieutenant-Colonel Gil Maoz, who heads the military police's southern district, is conducting investigations into claims regarding unlawful fire, injuring and endangering of innocent civilians, and disobeying orders.

 

Dozens of officers and soldiers have been summoned to give testimony or receive warning at the military police's headquarters in recent months, some of them already having been discharged from the IDF.

 

A military official said the testimonies had revealed other infractions, some committed by commanders. "In places where the incident exceeds the boundaries of reason we will file indictments," he said.

 

"But we can clearly state that we are talking about a number of specific incidents, some of them serious and others not, and not about lawlessness in relation to war crimes and the like."

 

The official added that he understood the complaints of many soldiers who said they felt humiliated by the interrogations and the fact that their commanders did not provide support, but that the probes had to be carried out.

 

Dozens of Palestinians were also summoned to the Erez crossing, where they provided testimonies as well.

 

'No justification for trial'

Colonel (Res) Ilan Katz, former deputy judge advocate general, criticized the IDF for the accumulating indictments against soldiers. "There is nothing in a mistake of judgment committed by these two soldiers that justifies placing them on trial, especially not a criminal trial that carries a criminal record. This is not a case of abuse or looting," he said.

 

"What occurred in Gaza was a real war and no less. Though no tanks or smart devices were used against us the soldiers were still in mortal danger."

 

Katz believes the Goldstone report is to blame for the sudden peak in charges, which he claims harm soldiers' ability to fight. He also accused the army of poor public relations.

 

"I believe the army failed to represent a correct picture of most of the incidents in which civilians were injured because it did not lead a public relations campaign to show that in these incidents soldiers were in danger of losing their lives," he said.

 

"Now, in order to satisfy those who condemn the operation and its outcomes they have found scapegoats in the forms of two soldiers in obligatory service who at best used mistaken judgment, even if the results could have been serious."

 

Last year Ynet revealed that two soldiers who fought in Gaza were arrested on suspicion of looting. The investigation revealed that the troops had stolen a Palestinian man's credit card and used it to purchase goods worth around $400.

 


פרסום ראשון: 03.11.10, 17:19
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