IDF indicts Cast Lead soldiers

IDF puts final touches on report refuting Goldstone’s conclusions.

cast lead 311 (photo credit: kobi gideon)
cast lead 311
(photo credit: kobi gideon)
A number of IDF soldiers will face criminal and disciplinary charges for misconduct during Operation Cast Lead, IDF Military Advocate-General Maj.- Gen. Avichai Mandelblit decided Tuesday, in the most comprehensive legal action taken by Israel in the wake of the Goldstone Report.
In the most severe case, Mandelblit decided to charge a soldier with manslaughter for allegedly shooting and killing a Palestinian woman during the operation in the Gaza Strip.
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He will bring disciplinary charges against two officers, one of them a battalion commander, for unprofessional conduct, including permitting the use of Palestinians as “human shields,” a practice banned by the High Court of Justice.
In the coming weeks, Mandelblit, together with the Foreign Ministry, will submit a revised version of a report that Israel submitted on Operation Cast Lead to the United Nations in February. The new report will be delivered to UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon by July 25, when Ban is expected to issue his own report on Cast Lead.
With the decision to take legal action, Mandelblit has completed reviewing 30 cases singled out in the Goldstone Report, except for one that is still under Military Police investigation.
The shooting incident took place on January 4, 2009 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.
At a certain point, a staff-sergeant from the Givati Brigade opened fire, killing an unidentified person. The Palestinians claimed that a mother and daughter – 35-year-old Majda Abu Hajiji and her 64-year-old mother Salama – were killed in the incident, which was thoroughly investigated by B’Tselem and mentioned in the Goldstone Report, while the soldiers claimed that the soldier, who served as a marksman, shot a man.
After reviewing the evidence, Mandelblit decided to indict the soldier based on evidence showing he deliberately targeted an individual walking with the group.
“Despite the fact that the two events are apparently one and the same, from a judicial point of view, sufficient connections could not be made between the evidence gathered in the case of the indicted soldier and the event described by Palestinian testimonies,” the IDF said in statement.
Mandelblit also decided to hold a disciplinary hearing for a battalion commander from the Golani Brigade 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 one of his company commanders that the Palestinian, according to a senior officer, “literally begged” the soldiers to allow him to enter the home in an effort to prevent the demolition of his home, which was next door.
Mandelblit 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. But Mandelblit still decided to hold a hearing for the commander, since the use of human shields is a violation of IDF orders and a High Court ruling.
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 occupied at the time by close to 100 members of the A-Samuni family. Some 21 members of the family were killed in the bombing.
“Suspicions are,” a senior officer said, “that civilians were killed due to a violation in regulations.”
In the last case, Mandelblit decided to take disciplinary action against an IDF captain who ordered an attack on a terror operative who was stationed near the Ibrahim Al- Makadma mosque in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.
The aerial strike targeted a terror operative involved in the launching of rockets at Israel who was standing outside of the mosque. Injuries caused to civilians inside were unintentional and caused by shrapnel that penetrated the mosque.