Two Israeli soldiers guilty of using human shields in Gaza

An Israeli military court has convicted two Israeli
soldiers for using a Palestinian child as a human shield during an offensive in
Gaza in 2009.

The soldiers were found guilty of reckless endangerment
and conduct unbecoming for forcing the nine-year-old boy to check suspected
booby-traps.

It is reportedly the first such conviction in Israel –
where the use of civilians as human shields is banned.

The sentencing will be decided at a later date, the court
said.

On Sunday, the southern command military court found the
two Israeli soldiers guilty of “exceeding their authority to the point of
endangering life” and conduct unbecoming in the incident in Gaza City’s
suburb of Tel al-Hawa on 15 January 2009.

A summary of the verdict said that – when rounding up residents
of Tel al-Hawa – the soldiers came across bags in a home and ordered the
Palestinian boy to search for suspected booby-traps.

“The boy, who feared for his fate and was under the
stress of the situation, wet his pants,” the three-judge panel wrote in
the summary of the verdict.

“The court has noted that, unlike the soldiers, the
child was, naturally, bereft of any form of protection.”

However, the court acknowledged that at the time the
soldiers – whose names have not been released – had been under “difficult
and dangerous conditions”.

The bags that the boy – identified only as Majd R – had
checked did not have any hidden explosives and the child was later returned to
his family unharmed.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive in December 2008,
saying it was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket attacks from the territory
controlled by militant Hamas movement.

Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed
during the 22-day fighting.

Last year’s report by UN investigator Richard Goldstone
accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the fighting.