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Wednesday, July 7, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel charges 8 soldiers with Gaza war crimes

TEL AVIV — Israel's military, under heavy international pressure, has indicted eight soldiers on charges connected to the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2009.


The Israeli military's chief prosecutor, Maj. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, has decided to indict eight soldiers, including those alleged to have killed two Palestinian women and ordered an air strike near a mosque. The indictments were submitted amid an investigation of 150 allegations of Israeli crimes during the 23-day war against Hamas in December 2008 and January 2009.

"More than 150 incidents have been examined and nearly 50 investigations have been launched by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division since the operation's conclusion," the military said on July 6.

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One unidentified officer was indicted on charges of ordering an air strike on a Hamas rocket launcher and crew outside a Gaza City mosque. Several people in the mosque were said to have been injured by shrapnel from the Israeli air-to-ground missile.

"The investigation also showed that the officer who ordered the attack had failed to exercise appropriate judgment," the military said. "Therefore, the Chief of the General Staff ordered that disciplinary actions be taken against the officer, and that he would not serve in similar positions of command in the future."

Officials said most of the indictment concerned allegations raised by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations during and after the Hamas war. In September 2009, the UN released a report that accused Israel's military of war crimes.

Another indictment concerned an Israeli air strike on the southern Gaza City neighborhood of Zeitoun on Jan. 5, 2009. The Israeli missile was said to have struck a home with 100 residents, and the military said an expert has been appointed to investigate.

"After examining the findings of the investigation, Maj. Gen. Mendelblit has ordered a Military Police criminal investigation into the circumstances of the incident," the military said. "The findings of the criminal investigation will be passed on to the Military Advocate General with its conclusion."

The most serious charge against the Israeli soldiers was that of manslaughter. A sergeant was accused of firing toward women, some of whom were carrying white flags, killing two of them.

The military said an investigation into the Jan. 4, 2009 shooting in Gaza City had been hampered by contradictory testimony by Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. Finally, Mendelblit determined that the sergeant "deliberately targeted an individual walking with a group of people waving a white flag without being ordered or authorized to do so."

The highest ranking officer indicted was that of a battalion commander, who usually holds the rank of lieutenant colonel. The commander was said to have ordered a Palestinian owner to enter his home and request that Palestinian fighters leave before the army blew up the building.

"The Military Advocate General indicted the battalion commander because he deviated from authorized and appropriate IDF behavior, and the Israeli Supreme Court jurisdiction regarding the use of civilians during operational activity, when he authorized the Palestinian's request to enter the house," the military said.

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