Last year, South African Judge Richard Goldstone released his report to the UN Human Rights Council documenting what he believed to be war crimes committed by both the Israeli military and Hamas forces during the 22-day long “Operation Cast Lead” conflict in Gaza in 2008.
One of the charges that Goldstone made was that Israeli troops used Palestinian civilians as human shields during operation, and last October, an Israeli court convicted two Israeli soldiers “of using a Palestinian boy as a human shield” during the 2008 offensive. The court’s “ruling said the two soldiers inappropriately ordered a 9-year-old boy to open bags they thought might contain explosive material.”
Today, the Israeli military court that convicted the two soldiers handed out its sentencing. It decided to give both soldiers a three-month suspended sentence and to demote both of them, who were staff sergeants, to the rank of sergeant:
Two Israeli soldiers have each received a three-month suspended sentence for forcing a nine-year- old Palestinian boy to open bags during the Gaza war in January 2009. The military court in the south of Israel also demoted the two staff sergeants, who were from the Givati infantry brigade, to the rank of sergeant. It also ruled that the offence will be noted in the men’s criminal records.
The soldiers, together with relatives and supporters, celebrated after the sentence was passed down, relieved that they were free and would be able to serve in the military reserves as commanders.
”Now all we want is to get plane tickets and to join our friends, who are waiting for us abroad. We’ve gone through something terrible and we just want to forget about it all,” said one of the two convicted soldiers after the sentencing was handed down. ”We were worried it would all end with jail time, but now we can relax.” Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres will reportedly “consider a request to pardon two soldiers,” removing any sort of mark on their records.
“If an Israeli child was exposed to the same thing, the whole world would have turned against us, but when it’s a Palestinian child, nothing happens,” said Majed Rabah, the boy who was taken captive by the soldiers. “Do the Israeli authorities think that a three-month suspended sentence is an appropriate punishment for two heavily-armed soldiers treating a nine-year-old boy as a human shield?” replied Gerard Horton, “a spokesman in the West Bank for Geneva-based rights group Defence for Children International,” in response to the sentencing.