Two combat soldiers from the Givati Infantry Brigade who ordered a nine-year-old Palestinian to open boxes and suitcases they feared were booby-trapped during Operation Cast Lead in 2009 were convicted Sunday of overstepping their authority, endangering a life and inappropriate conduct.

On January 15, 2009, the soldiers told the boy in Gaza City to open the boxes, which proved to be harmless, according to the charge sheet filed by the Military Prosecutor’s Office with the Southern Command Military Court in Kastina, near Kiryat Malachi.

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The charges carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

The military judges wrote in their ruling that “the testimony of the Palestinian child was credible, and he answered questions in a coherent and clear manner. We have fully accepted his testimony.”

Testimonies by the defendants, on the other hand, were “full of contradictions, unconvincing, artificial, confused and hesitant,” the judges said.

The soldiers had been told before the offensive began that they were forbidden to use civilians as human shields, the judges said.

The defendants, identified only as “St.-Sgt. A.” and “St.-Sgt H.,” have completed their mandatory military service.

They were supported by family and friends, and their former commander, Yoni Lichtman, all of whom appeared in court with T-shirts carrying the slogan, “We are all victims of Goldstone.”

Speaking to Channel 10 after the conviction, Lichtman said the ruling was an injustice to the soldiers, and that the judges had merely responded to international pressure on Israel following Operation Cast Lead.

“Without the Goldstone Report, we would not be in this embarrassing situation.

Now their future is in jeopardy...

The court is attempting to please the world,” he said.

“They put their lives on the line. All of these things took place in a battle zone... These are people who set out to protect us,” Lichtman said.

He blasted senior Givati Brigade commanders and IDF brass for “abandoning these soldiers” and “failing to come and support them.”

The soldiers were also convicted of firing into one of the suspect suitcases near the Palestinian boy, endangering his life, Channel 10 reported.

The two sergeants came under investigation before the UN’s Goldstone Report was released in September 2009. The IDF probe was opened based on information in a report compiled by a special United Nations representative appointed to investigate matters involving children and armed conflict, and following a specific complaint filed by the Israeli branch of Defense for Children International.

Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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