Settlements Cover 42 Percent Of West Bank


MATTI FRIEDMAN


July 6, 2010

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military indicted a soldier Tuesday on a charge
of manslaughter during last year’s war in the Gaza Strip – the most
serious criminal charge to come out of an internal investigation into
the devastating offensive in the Hamas-ruled territory.

The soldier was among three troops, including a field commander, to face
new disciplinary action stemming from their conduct during the
offensive, which has drawn international condemnation for its civilian
death toll. An Israeli human rights group praised the announcement, but
said the disciplinary measures announced by the army so far were
insufficient.

The steps against the soldiers were linked to four specific incidents
during the offensive, which Israel launched to halt years of rocket fire
from Gaza.

Around 1,400 Gazans, many of them civilians, were killed in three weeks
of fierce urban fighting and aerial bombardments. Thirteen Israelis were
killed. A report commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council accused
Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, a charge Israel rejects.

In a statement Tuesday, the military said its chief prosecutor would
indict an infantry sergeant for manslaughter in connection with an
incident in which two Palestinian women – a mother and daughter – were
killed while reportedly holding white flags.

The military said there were discrepancies between the troops’ accounts
of the incident and the details reported widely by human rights groups,
The troops reported shooting one man at the site, not two women, and on a
different date. Also, it was unclear exactly whom the soldier was
charged with killing. Asked for clarification, the military did not
offer further details.

The military said this was the first manslaughter indictment from the
Gaza war.

The incident was mentioned in U.N. report, which accused both Israel and
Hamas of war crimes.

In addition, the military said a battalion commander was disciplined for
allowing his troops to use a Palestinian civilian as a human shield.
Soldiers sent the man toward a house where militants were holed up to
persuade them to come out, a violation of army regulations, the
announcement said.

In a third incident, the military said it disciplined an officer who
ordered an airstrike near a mosque, an attack that the U.N. report said
killed at least 15 civilians and wounded 40.

The military said the strike targeted a Palestinian militant outside the
mosque and that the harm to those inside the building was
unintentional, so it did not violate international law. But the military
also said the officer was negligent and "failed to exercise appropriate
judgment," and he would be barred from serving in "similar positions of
command" in the future.

In the fourth incident, the military prosecutor ordered a new
investigation into the deaths of two dozen members of a family who were
ordered by troops into a building that was shelled later in the
fighting.

Israel says Hamas bears overall responsibility for the casualties
because it fired rockets and fought from heavily populated towns and
cities. An internal military investigation last year largely cleared the
army of any systematic wrongdoing, while promising to prosecute
individual cases of misconduct.

One soldier has been convicted of stealing and using a Palestinian’s
credit card, while two others are being prosecuted for using a
Palestinian boy as a human shield.

An army spokesperson said these indictments are part of an ongoing
investigation of nearly 50 claims.

Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for the Israeli human rights group
B’Tselem, praised the military for making progress in its investigations
but said they were insufficient.

"The main questions about the Gaza war concern policy, and a military
investigation can’t handle this," she said. "There must be an external
investigation that will deal with the whole chain of command and chiefly
with the people at the top who approved the directives."

Also Tuesday, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in
Washington for talks with President Barack Obama, B’Tselem released a
report showing that much of the West Bank, where Palestinians want to
establish a state, is under the control of Israeli settlements.

Although the actual buildings of the settlements cover just 1 percent of
the West Bank’s land area, they have jurisdiction over more than 42
percent, the B’Tselem report said. Much of that land was seized from
Palestinian landowners in defiance of an Israeli Supreme Court ban, the
group said.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, captured by Israel in the
1967 Mideast war, as part of a future state.

Dani Dayan, chairman of a settler umbrella group, disputed the report,
saying settlements control just 9.2 percent of the West Bank, and
charged that the report was aimed to sabotage the Netanyahu-Obama
meeting.

Israeli government officials would not comment.

Link: www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/06/israel-settlements-cover_n_635907.html

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