IDF soldiers walking to Gaza during Operation Cast Lead 311R.
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
An IDF soldier will serve a jail sentence of 45 days for the unlawful use of his firearm during Operation Cast Lead in 2009, after reaching a plea bargain with military prosecutors.
The soldier – now a civilian – served in the Givati Brigade during the 2009 Gaza conflict, and was initially charged with the unlawful killing of two Palestinian women from the same family.
Military prosecutors then downgraded the charges after major discrepancies were found in the case against the soldier.
The defendant’s lawyer proved that the shooting and the killing of the two women happened at different times.
Additionally, the prosecution said no bodies had been presented to the court to determine the women’s cause of death, and said that there many soldiers shooting in the area at the time.
Finally, there were significant discrepancies between the Palestinian claims in the case and the IDF’s charges.
The charges initially leveled against the soldier, known as “S.,” were the most serious accusations against an Israeli soldier from Cast Lead, and the case appeared in the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report.
On January 4, 2009, Palestinian mother and daughter, Majda and Raya Abu Hajaj, were said to be part of a group of civilians waving a white sheet in order to show that they did not present a threat and were seeking evacuation from their home near Gaza City due to the nearby fighting.
The Givati soldiers stationed nearby received a warning that terrorists may attempt to blend in to groups of fleeing civilians and launch attacks.
Evidence produced during the trial indicated that S.ignored orders and fired on the group.
The IDF investigated the incident and decided to bring the soldier to trial. “As we said when charges were filed, this case will begin with manslaughter and will end with a weak result,” attorneys Meir Klinger and Oded Saburai, who represent the soldier, told Ma’ariv. “We welcome the prosecution’s decision to back away from the charges, even though this happened following a significant delay,” the attorneys added. The lawyers said it was a shame their client had to face such a severe and baseless charge for two years.
In response to the plea bargain, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories called to reopen the investigation into the two deaths.