Israel army mulls charging soldier

2010-06-23 11:43

The Israeli army’s top prosecutor has begun hearing evidence

against a soldier suspected of killing two women who were waving white flags

during the Gaza war.

The hearing of the unidentified reserve soldier began yesterday,

with Chief Military Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit hearing submissions from

lawyers representing the accused.

The soldier was not present at the two-hour hearing which was to

assess what if any charges he might face, the Haaretz daily newspaper

said.

Military sources quoted by the English-language Jerusalem Post said

there was “significant evidence” against the soldier which could lead to

manslaughter charges.

The army had no immediate comment on yesterday’s hearing, which was

expected to continue next week.

If charges are filed, it would be the first prosecution of an

Israeli soldier for killing civilians during the 22-day war, which was launched

in December 2008 and killed around 1 400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which first reported the

killings, said the soldier is believed to have opened fire without provocation

on a group of some 30 civilians, killing Riyeh Abu Hajaj (64) and her daughter

Majda Abu Hajaj (37) from the Juhr al-Dik village south of Gaza City.

Last week, the army confirmed the military police had completed an

investigation into the incident and said the case had been transferred to the

office of the military advocate general for a hearing to begin on June 22.

The army said at the time: “A decision about the continuation of

the legal proceedings will be taken upon the conclusion of that process.”

B’Tselem said the incident occurred on January 4 last year when the

Abu Hajaj family evacuated their home after it was hit by a tank shell.

During the military police investigation, the soldier told

investigators he had fired at the women’s legs only when he believed the troops’

lives were at risk and had not intended to kill them, Haaretz reported last

week.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said 1 417 Palestinians

were killed in the operation, of which 926 were civilians – including 313

children and 116 women.

The Israeli military says 295 Palestinian civilians were killed

during the offensive aimed at halting years of Palestinian rocket attacks, of

which 89 were under 16, and 49 were women.

It says the high number of civilian casualties was unavoidable as

Hamas fighters deployed in crowded civilian areas and used women and children as

human shields.

But a UN fact-finding report released last year accused both Israel

and Palestinian militant groups of deliberately attacking civilians in violation

of international law.


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