Is­rael an­nounces in­dict­ments of troops in Gaza war mis­deeds

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Is­abel Ker­sh­ner

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.

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