Israeli prosecutors have dropped a manslaughter charge against a soldier in the Israel Defence Forces for killing two Palestinian women during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The unnamed sergeant was found guilty of a lesser charge of "unlawful use of a firearm" and was sentenced to 45 days in prison. The verdict has been condemned by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
The soldier's lawyer said that conviction was for killing an unidentified individual, not Rayah abu-Hajjaj, 64, and her daughter Majdah, 37. The two were shot while trying to escape from fighting in the Juhar al-Dik district of Gaza City on 4 January 2009, according to a report for the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. They were carrying white flags at the time that they were killed.
"This is a mockery of a verdict," said the PA Ministry of Information. "It gives the green light for Israel occupation soldiers and settlers to kill more Palestinians, legitimising genocide and ethnic cleansing regardless of legal or ethical considerations."
A statement from the ministry described the verdict further as "a new stigma to be added to the black record of the Israeli occupation, full as it is of violations, crimes and aggression."
Accusing the Israelis of immorality, the statement added: "Israel, which claims to have abolished the death penalty and is proud of being a democracy, is carrying out thousands of killings of Palestinians."
The latest verdict brings to mind the case of Colonel Issachar Shadmi, who was fined one penny for being in charge of troops who killed 48 Palestinians, including 22 children, in the infamous Kafr Qasim massacre in 1956.