Israeli soldier to be charged with manslaughter for Gaza shooting
The Israeli military Judge-Advocate General has decided to charge a soldier with manslaughter, for allegedly shooting at Palestinian civilians, some carrying white flags, during Israel's Gaza offensive last year, the Israeli military said Tuesday, DPA reported.
Major-General Avichai Mandelblit has also decided to open disciplinary hearings for a lieutenant colonel who authorised the use of a civilian as a "human shield" during the fighting.
Mandelblit further ordered a criminal investigation be launched into the circumstances of an airstrike which struck a house in which around 100 people were sheltering.
In a fourth case, Mandelblit decided not to initiate legal steps against an officer already reprimanded by his military superiors for ordering an aerial strike in close proximity to a mosque outside of which a militant was launching rockets at Israel.
The manslaughter incident took place on January 4, 2009, when a group of about 30 Palestinian civilians, among them women and children, approached an Israeli army position near Gaza City.
Several of the group were waving white flags, witnesses said, but a soldier opened fire, killing a 35-year-old woman and her 64-year- old mother.
Mandelblit recommended the soldier be charged with manslaughter after he opened fire "without being ordered or authorized to do so."
The lieutenant-colonel, a battalion commander, will be disciplined for allegedly allowing troops to send a civilian into a house where militants were holed up, in an attempt to convince them to leave.
The officer 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.
Mandelblit decided that criminal charges were not called for after he reviewed the findings of the investigation, and because the Palestinian had asked to enter the home to talk to the terrorists.
However, the officer will still be disciplined since both Israeli army standing orders and the country's supreme court forbid the use of human shields.
Israel launched its devastating Gaza offensive at the end of 2008, in response to years of repeated rocket fire form the Gaza Strip on its southern towns and villages. When the fighting was over, three weeks later, around 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians humans rights groups say, had been killed.