Israeli sniper gets 45 days for killing Palestinian women
Published Sunday, August 12, 2012
An Israeli soldier faces just a 45-day jail term for the murder of two Gaza civilians carrying a white flag, after the military courts agreed a plea bargain on Sunday, the army and local media said.
The sniper, identified by Israeli media as "staff sergeant S," was charged with manslaughter in 2010 over the fatal shooting of 64-year-old Riyeh Abu Hajaj and her daughter Majda Abu Hajaj, 37, during Israel's 22-day bombardment of Gaza that started in December 2008.
But the Israeli military said the charge had on Sunday been reduced from manslaughter to using a weapon illegally.
"Following a mediation process and upon examination of the evidence with the recommendation of the military court, both sides have reached a plea bargain in which the indictment will be adjusted, and he will be convicted of using a weapon illegally," a military statement said.
Under the deal, "S" would be jailed for 45 days, media reports said.
According to a report by Israeli rights group B'Tselem, the incident occurred on 4 January 2009, when the Abu Hajaj family evacuated their home after it was hit by an Israeli tank shell.
"When they saw tanks about 150 meters from them, two of them waved the (white) flags, and the children in the group sat on the ground," B'Tselem said.
"Suddenly, and without warning, shots were fired at the residents, killing Majda Abu Hajaj on the spot. Her mother, Riyeh Abu Hajaj, was severely wounded by the gunfire," it said. She later died of her wounds.
The murders were raised in the UN Goldstone report on alleged war crimes by Israel during the offensive in which over 1,400 Palestinians were killed.
Immediately after the verdict was announced, B'Tselem demanded a fresh investigation into the killings, arguing that the plea bargain actually referred to the killing of an unidentified individual and did not name the two women.
"If the military prosecution accepted the claim brought by the soldier's lawyers, that there is no connection between the shooting he admitted to and the killing of the Palestinian mother and daughter, this means that the investigation into this incident was never completed," a statement from the group said.
"The MPIU must therefore solve the case and pursuant to the finding, hold accountable those responsible," it added.
The ruling is likely to spark fresh fury in Palestine, where leaders said the killings were tantamount to war crimes and demanded the shooter be charged with murder.
The army dismissed dozens of other alleged incidents because "according to the rules of warfare, no faults were found in the forces' actions."
Israel has maintained a crippling siege on the Gaza Strip since 2007, which major human rights groups have slammed as a violation of international law.