An Israeli military court sentenced two soldiers who in 2002 fired tanks shells at civilians in Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, killing three children and one resident, to three months probation and a censure after the pleaded guilty to “negligence”.
Soldiers fired tank shells at civilians in Jenin as the army was imposing curfew over the city during “Operation Defensive Shield” in 2002. A military probe into the incident revealed that the force was not subjected to any danger.
A company commander who also pled guilty to negligence was sentenced to probation and was demoted to a second lieutenant, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported.
Haaretz added that the prosecution agreed to the deal “due to difficulties in proving the connection between the officers' negligence and the deaths of the Palestinians”.
The deadly attack took place when the Israeli army stormed Jenin during the so-called “defensive shield” military offensive in the West Bank. A brigade commander operating in the city ordered the armored battalion under his command to fire tank shells at civilians who were gathering in a street.
The officer said that the residents gathered in the street in spite of the imposed curfew in Jenin.
According to the prosecution, the battalion commander ordered the troops to fire the shells at a “hazard barrier” which means a short distance away from the civilians. But the commander, according to the report, failed to pass on the remainder of the instructions.
When the tank shells were fired, one 53-year old man and three children were killed and five more civilians were injured. The casualties were Hilal Mustafa Shatta, 53, Sojoud Ahmad, 6, Ahmad Yousef, 5, and his brother Jamil Yousef, 13. Five other civilians, including three children aged 7 – 12, were injured.
Haaretz also reported that the brigade commander faced “disciplinary” proceedings regarding the civilian deaths and was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The identities of the soldiers involved in the incident remained unknown as the court issued a gag order despite the fact that the name of the brigade commander appeared in the press.
The gag order was enforced as the court was citing concerns that the families or human right groups might attempt to try them abroad.