Israeli soldier wins plea bargain over Cast Lead charges
Published Sunday 12/08/2012 (updated) 14/08/2012 10:20
A Palestinian woman runs for cover after an Israeli airstrike on Rafah in
the southern Gaza Strip in December 2008. (MaanImages/File)
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- An Israeli soldier was sentenced to 45 days in jail in a plea bargain which accepted he was not responsible for killing a Palestinian mother and daughter during Israel's 2009 war on Gaza, Israeli media and human rights groups said Sunday.
Raya Abu Hajaj, 64, and her daughter Majdi, 36, were killed in the central Gaza village of Juhor al-Dik on Jan. 4, 2009, the first day of Israel's ground invasion of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
According to a UN-sponsored report by South African justice Richard Goldstone they were shot while bearing a white flag.
The soldier, referred to as S', was originally charged with killing by the Israeli military advocate general, but reached a plea bargain for the lesser offense 'illegal use of weapons,' Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
Evidence presented during the case showed S' deliberately shot at a figure among a group of civilians, but his attorneys argued the connection between his shooting and the women's death could not be proven, Haaretz said.
Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said the soldier was indicted for the manslaughter of an unknown individual, a charge it described as problematic, after the military found the soldier's admission of the shooting incident did not match eyewitness testimonies of the Hajaj's death.
B'Tselem, which arranged the provision of witnesses and documentation to investigate the death of the two women, says the plea bargain means the killing of the women in Gaza remains unsolved, and is demanding the probe be completed.
Israel's 3-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, launched in December 2008, left nearly 1,400 Palestinians dead, including 300 children.
According to UN figures, Israel's military destroyed over 3,500 residential homes and made 20,000 people homeless during the 22-day assault.
The Goldstone mission found that Israel committed "grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of willful killings and willfully causing great suffering to protected persons."