Saturday, October 9, 2010

Israeli soldiers convicted of using human shields

RTT News
Israeli Soldiers Convicted Of Using Gaza Boy As 'Human Shield"
October 4, 2010

(RTTNews) - Two Israeli soldiers have been convicted of using a nine-year-old Palestinian boy as human shield during the 2008-09 Gaza war, officials said on Monday.

Israel's southern command military court on Sunday found them guilty of "exceeding their authority to the point of endangering life" by forcing the Palestinian boy to open bags they suspected contained explosives.

The incident happened in Gaza city's suburb of Tel al-Hawa in January, 2009. The soldiers, who face up to three years in prison over the incident, are expected to be sentenced at a later date.

"The boy, who feared for his fate and was under the stress of the situation, wet his pants," the three-judge panel said in its ruling. "The court has noted that, unlike the soldiers, the child was, naturally, bereft of any form of protection."

Without naming the soldiers, the panel acknowledged that the pair had been under "difficult and dangerous conditions." The boy involved in the incident was identified only as Majd R who, according to Israeli officials, was returned unharmed to his parents after he checked the suspicious bags.

Israel had launched a 22-day offensive against the Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 in response to continued rocket fire into southern Israel.

The three-week war was finally halted with separate unilateral cease-fire by Israel and Hamas, the radical Islamist group that controls Gaza Strip.

Though Palestinians claim that over 1,400 civilians were killed in the conflict in Gaza, the Israeli Army reports only 1,116 Palestinian deaths in the offensive.A later report by a U.N.-appointed investigating committee led by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone had accused Israel and Hamas militants of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict. However, both Israel and Hamas rejected the report as biased.

The U.N. Human Rights Council, however, endorsed the Goldstone committee's report at a two-day special session held in Geneva in October 2009. Its ratification came despite warnings by the U.S. and Israel that such a move would set back Middle East peace efforts.

A month later, the United Nations General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution endorsing the Goldstone committee report. It demanded that both Israel and Hamas carry out separate internal investigations that "are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards" into allegations of war crimes committed by their forces during the Gaza conflict.

A team of U.N. experts last month criticized Israel and Hamas for failing to conduct credible and adequate investigations into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by their forces during the Gaza war.

*by RTT Staff Writer

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