Rayya Abu Hajjaj and her adult daughter Majda Abu Hajjaj were shot to death by Israel Defense Forces soldiers while holding a white flag and attempting to flee for their lives on January 4, 2009, the day that Israeli ground forces launched their incursion into the Gaza Strip. That was a war crime.
The IDF, much touted by Israelis as the most moral army in the world, indicted a soldier identified only as Staff Sgt. S., one of the few indictments issued over incidents that took place during Operation Cast Lead. More than three years later, the military prosecution agreed to a plea bargain this week: S. will serve 45 days in prison for unlawful use of a weapon.
This strange deal was reached after many twists and turns; the manslaughter charge was deleted and S. was charged with involvement in the deaths of an "anonymous figure," without a name or face, rather than of killing the two women.
The evidence cited in the charge sheet indicates that S. fired intentionally, in violation of his orders, at a group of civilians. It says he aimed at and hit the upper body of "the figure." Even for the charges that made it onto the indictment, S. is getting a ridiculously light sentence.
In addition, the IDF has not taken any legal measures against those involved in another shocking incident that took place during the Gaza war, the killing of 21 members of the Samouni family of Gaza. In fact, two months ago it closed the investigation against one of those suspected of involvement in the Samouni deaths: Ilan Malka, the Givati Brigade commander at the time.
Put the army's treatment of those two incidents together and the IDF's position on enforcing the law on war crimes becomes clear.
Cast Lead, an operation that caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, is ending on a weak note. Just three indictments have been issued: one connected to the theft of a credit card, one on the use of the "neighbor policy," and this one on the improper use of a weapon.
Somebody killed the members of the Samouni family in vain, just as someone killed Rayya and Majda Abu Hajjaj in vain. The soldiers and commanders responsible for these crimes are walking around as free men, never having been punished for the offense. If the IDF law enforcement authorities have become convinced that S. isn't the one who killed Rayya and Majda Abu Hajjaj, it must immediately open an intensive investigation to discover the person who is guilty of their death.
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