Israel announces indictments of troops in Gaza war misdeeds
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Tuesday that it had indicted “a number of” officers and soldiers for their actions during Israel’s threeweek offensive in Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, including a staff sergeant accused of deliberately shooting at least one Palestinian civilian who was walking with a group of people waving a white flag.
The announcement came nearly 18 months after the end of the war and on the day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama in Washington. An Israeli military spokesman denied any link between the timing of the announcement and the prime minister’s trip.
According to Israel’s army, the chief military prosecutor has decided to take disciplinary and legal action in four cases, including some already highlighted by human rights groups and by a scathing U.N. report on the Gaza war.
The offensive was a response to years of rocket fire against southern Israel from Gaza and after the militant group Hamas took full control of Gaza in mid-2007. Up to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the war.
The staf f sergeant accused of killing at least one civilian faces a manslaughter charge.
The military also said that a battalion commander had been indicted for deviating from “authorized and appropriate” army behavior and from an Israeli Supreme Court ruling when he authorized a Palestinian man to act as a kind of human shield by entering a house where militants were sheltering to persuade them to leave.
In a third case, the chief of staff ordered disciplinary action against an officer who ordered an airstrike on a militant involved in launching rockets. The man was standing outside a mosque, the army said, and the shrapnel caused what it called unintentional injuries to civilians inside. The U.N. report said the mosque attack killed at least 15 civilians.
In addition, the chief military prosecutor ordered a criminal investigation by the Military Police into an airstrike on a house that held about 100 members of the extended Samouni family in Gaza City. That case stirred particular outrage as Palestinian paramedics were prevented by Israeli forces from reaching the house for days after the strike. Red Cross officials then publicized their discovery of four emaciated Samouni children who had been trapped in the home with the bodies of their mothers. In all, up to 30 Samounis died.