IDF indicts Cast Lead soldier

Soldier suspected of shooting and killing Palestinian woman.

cast lead 311 (photo credit: kobi gideon)
cast lead 311
(photo credit: kobi gideon)
IDF Military Advocate General Maj.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit decided Tuesday to charge a soldier with manslaughter for allegedly shooting and killing a Palestinian woman during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last year.
The incident took place on January 4 in Juhar a-Dik, near Gaza City, when a group of about 30 Palestinian civilians, including women and children, approached an Israeli military position. The group, according to several eyewitness accounts, was waving white flags.
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At a certain point, one of the IDF soldiers from the Givati Brigade opened fire at a woman who was marching together with the group. A mother and daughter – 35-year-old Majda Abu Hajiji and her 64-year-old mother Salama were killed in the incident, although it is not clear which of them died from the Givati soldier's fire. The incident was later thoroughly investigated by B’Tselem and mentioned in the Goldstone Report.
During a military probe shortly following the incident, one soldier was picked out as responsible for opening fire at the group of civilians.
The IDF said on Tuesday that dozens of Palestinians, soldiers and IDF officers were interrogated and that “gaps were discovered between the description provided by the Palestinians to the soldiers' testimonies.”  According to Palestinian testimonies, tank fire killed the Hajiji women, while the IDF investigation showed no tank fire in the vicinity.  However, the investigation did uncover a Givati soldier who admitted firing at a woman who he feared endangered his life.  While the military police cannot identify the specific woman that the soldier allegedly shot and killed, the MAG decided nevertheless to press manslaughter charges against the soldier.
A senior IDF officer said Tuesday that the Israeli penal code allows for charging a suspect with manslaughter, without a specific body being accounted for.
Mandelblit also decided to hold a disciplinary hearing for a battalion commander with the rank of lieutenant colonel who allegedly permitted troops to send a Palestinian into a home where terrorists were located. This was done in an effort to convince the terrorists to leave the home. The battalion commander, who was not present during the incident, gave his approval based on reports that he received from his soldiers that the Palestinian had asked the soldiers to allow him to enter the home in an effort to prevent the demolition of his home which was next door.
The MAG decided to press disciplinary and not criminal charges against the officer after reviewing the material collected during the investigation and due to the fact that the Palestinian had requested to enter the home to talk to the terrorists. On the other hand, Mandelblit till decided to hold a hearing for the commander since the use of human shields is a violation of IDF orders and a ruling of the High Court of Justice.
The IDF also announced Tuesday that Mandelblit had decided to launch a new criminal investigation into an air force bombing of a home in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City which was occupied at the time by close to 100 members of the A-Samuni family.
In two weeks, the IDF and the foreign ministry will present a revised and updated version of its reports on Operation Cast Lead to the United Nations, which will include all findings from these investigations.