Givati commander protests conviction of 2 soldiers

Troops convicted of "overstepping authority" for using Gazan boy as a human shield during Cast Lead claim they are "victims of Goldstone."

IDF soldier (photo credit: AP)
IDF soldier
(photo credit: AP)
Givati Brigade commander Col. Moni Katz and hundreds of IDF reservists arrived on Monday at the Southern Command Military Court in Kastina, near Kiryat Gat, to protest the ongoing trial of two soldiers who have been convicted of using a Gazan boy as a human shield during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009.
The sentencing stage began on Monday.
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The soldiers, who cannot be identified, were found guilty two weeks ago of exceeding their authority by ordering a nine-year-old boy to open bags they suspected might be booby-trapped near his home in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood.
Military prosecutors requested on Monday that the court imprison the soldiers and demote them to privates for violating human rights and the IDF’s code of “purity of arms.”
“They are treating me like a war criminal who needs to pay dearly for years to come,” one of the soldiers said.
The other soldier told the court, “We feel as though we are victims of the Goldstone Report.”
The defendants, identified only as “St.-Sgt. A.” and “St.-Sgt H.,” have completed their mandatory military service. 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.”
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 UN 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.
On Monday, as the military prosecutor began the sentencing phase of the trial‚ Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, former deputy chief of General Staff, testified in support of the soldiers.
He later said that the IDF has entered a “lethal legal nightmare” by allowing 600 soldiers and officers to be questioned by Military Police since the end of Operation Cast Lead.
“I do not know these soldiers but felt that there is a need to give them support. Even if they did something wrong, they are not criminals,” he said. “We need to return to the time when the commander is in charge of investigating operational incidents and not everything needs to go to a trial.”
As the court held session, demonstrators outside held signs reading, “Soldiers for Soldiers,” and “Every Mother Should Know that Her Son has Been Abandoned,” a play on a famous saying by former prime minister David Ben-Gurion that Jewish mothers should know that they are leaving their sons in the trustworthy hands in the IDF.