Israel Convicts Troops of Using Human Shield in Gaza

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Agence France-Presse

Israel Convicts Troops of Using Human Shield in Gaza

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A Palestinian opening the door for Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron in 2004. (Photo by: AP)

JERUSALEM — An Israeli military court on Sunday convicted two
soldiers of using a Palestinian child as a human shield by forcing him
to check for booby traps during the 2008-2009 Gaza war.

A
transcript of the court decision made available by the army said the
infantry sergeants were found guilty of "exceeding their authority to
the point of endangering life," and "conduct unbecoming," for ordering a
nine-year-old boy to search bags confiscated from arrested
Palestinians.

The court acknowledged however that at the time of
the incident, January 15, 2009, the troops had been under "difficult and
dangerous combat conditions" and had gone several nights without sleep.

Sentencing is to be decided at a later date, the military said.

Israel's Supreme Court has banned such actions, saying they amount to using a civilian as a human shield.

According
to testimony released when the two soldiers went on trial in March, the
child, identified as Majd R., said he feared for his life.

"I
thought they would kill me. I became very scared and wet my pants," he
said in an affidavit to Defence for Children International, a
Geneva-based group.

"There were two bags in front of me," the boy
said. "I grabbed the first one as he (the soldier) stood one-and-a-half
metres (yards) away. I opened the bag as he pointed his weapon directly
at me. I emptied the bag on the floor. It contained money and papers. I
looked at him and he was laughing."

Army radio said several of the
two soldiers' comrades attended the hearing wearing shirts saying, "We
are the victims of Goldstone," referring to a UN Human Rights Council
probe of the war by South African jurist Richard Goldstone that accused
Israel and Palestinian militants of war crimes.

The report said
there was evidence that both sides committed crimes against humanity
during the 22-day conflict and recommended that the International
Criminal Court examine its findings in the absence of "credible
investigations" on both sides.

Israel vehemently rejected the report as "biased."

The
military began its own investigation of the bag-searching incident in
June 2009. It said the probe was unrelated to the Goldstone mission,
which was visiting the Gaza Strip at the same time.

Israel
launched the 22-day offensive in December 2008 in a bid to halt
Palestinian rocket attacks from the territory ruled by the militant
Hamas movement. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in
the fighting.

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