Israeli Sniper Gets Only 45 Days for Killing of Two Women under White Flags

Rayah Abu Hajaj (in this family photo) and her daughter Majedah were shot while walking with a group of Palestinians holding white flags after their home was bombed during Israel's 'Operation Cast Lead' in the Gaza Strip in 2009.

Israeli Sniper Gets Only 45 Days for Killing of Two Women under White Flags

An Israeli soldier accused of killing a mother and daughter carrying a white flag in Gaza during Israel's 2009 'Operation Cast Lead' has received a sentence of only 45 days following a plea deal approved by a military court on Sunday.

The charges against the soldier -- known only in court documents and the Israeli media as "staff sergeant S" -- were reduced from 'manslaughter' to 'using a weapon illegally'. In addition, as the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem points out, the deal does not recognize guilt for the killing of Majedah and Rayah Abu Hajaj, but rather punishes the soldier for the "killing of an unidentified individual."

"Following a mediation process and upon examination of the evidence with the recommendation of the military court, both sides have reached a plea bargain in which the indictment will be adjusted, and he will be convicted of using a weapon illegally," a military statement said.

B'Tselem challenged the decision and called for the reopening of the case for a full and thorough investigation.

"If the military prosecution accepted the claim brought by the soldier's lawyers, that there is no connection between the shooting he admitted to, and the killing of the Palestinian mother and daughter, this means that the investigation into this incident was never completed," the group said in a statement.

"B'Tselem demands that the Military Police investigation unit reopen the file."

According to B'Tselem, on January 4, 2009, the Abu Hajaj family evacuated their home after it was hit by an Israeli tank shell.

"When they saw tanks about 150 metres (yards) from them, two of them waved the (white) flags, and the children in the group sat on the ground," B'Tselem said.

"Suddenly, and without warning, shots were fired at the residents, killing Majda Abu Hajaj on the spot. Her mother, Riyeh Abu Hajaj, was severely wounded by the gunfire," it said. She later died of her wounds.

The incident was one of those raised in the UN Goldstone Report on alleged war crimes by both Israel during its incursion of the Gaza strip in late 2008 and early 2009.

More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the conflict.

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