4 Oct 2010

Israeli soldiers convicted of using child as shield

6:46 pm on 4 October 2010

An Israeli military court has convicted two Israeli soldiers for using a Palestinian child as a human shield in Gaza.

The soldiers were found guilty of reckless endangerment and conduct unbecoming for forcing the nine-year-old boy to check suspected booby-traps in the Gaza City suburb of Tel al-Hawa on 15 January 2009.

It is reportedly the first such conviction in Israel - where the use of civilians as human shields is banned, the BBC reports.

A summary of the verdict says that when rounding up residents of Tel al-Hawa, the soldiers came across bags in a home and ordered the boy to search for suspected booby-traps.

"The boy, who feared for his fate and was under the stress of the situation, wet his pants," the three-judge panel says.

"The court has noted that, unlike the soldiers, the child was, naturally, bereft of any form of protection."

Returned to family unharmed

The court acknowledges, however, that at the time the soldiers - whose names have not been released - had been under "difficult and dangerous conditions".

The bags checked by the boy contained no hidden explosives and he was later returned to his family unharmed.

The soldiers' sentencing will be decided at a later date.