Two Givati Brigade infantrymen were indicted on Thursday for allegedly ordering a Palestinian boy to open bags suspected of containing bombs during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last year.
According to the charge sheet filed by the Military Prosecutor’s Office, the two staff sergeants ordered a child to open bags that were suspected of being booby-trapped while searching a building in Tel al-Hawa, an affluent neighborhood on the south side of Gaza City.
The two soldiers came under investigation before the UN’s Goldstone Report was released last September. The 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.
The IDF stressed in a statement that soldiers were under strict orders to refrain from forcing Palestinian civilians to assist in military operations during Cast Lead and that the case represented a deviation from IDF regulations. A similar tactic, known as the “human shield procedure” and used by the IDF to search homes during the second intifada was forbidden for use by the High Court of Justice in 2005.
“The IDF is morally committed to preventing harm to civilians who are not involved in combat, and as a result takes numerous measures to maintain the values of conduct in warfare,” the IDF statement read.
This is the second Military Police investigation regarding last winter’s Gaza offensive that has led to indictments. The first case was last year, when a soldier, also from the Givati Brigade, was sentenced to seven months in prison for stealing a Gazan’s credit card during the operation and using it to withdraw money from ATMs in Israel.
To date, the IDF has opened 150 investigations into Cast Lead, mostly following complaints from human rights organizations, private Palestinians and as a result of internal IDF probes.
Of the 150 incidents, 36 have been referred for criminal investigations, in the framework of which some 100 Palestinian testimonies have been collected in addition to 500 from IDF soldiers and commanders.
Another case that has caused a stir within the army has been the interrogation by the Military Police of a number of mid-level officers as well as soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade after a complaint was filed against them by Palestinians who said they were abused during their detention after the offensive.
B’Tselem-The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the
Occupied Territories, meanwhile, expressed hope that the indictment
filed on Thursday was an indication that the Military Police was close
to completing all of its investigations.
“Without detracting from the importance of a criminal investigation and
prosecution in this case, B’Tselem’s reiterates that Military Police
investigations are not the appropriate instrument to investigate
allegations regarding operation Cast Lead,” a statement by the NGO
read. “Israel must appoint an Israeli body, external to the army, to
conduct an independent and effective investigation into Operation Cast