Israel convicts soldier over killing of Gazan protester

The unnamed soldier will serve one month in prison

A Palestinian protester hurles stones at a vehicle during clashes with Israeli forces following a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip on October 25, 2019. / AFP / SAID KHATIB
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An Israeli soldier has been convicted by a military court of disobeying an order which led to the death of a Palestinian teenager.

The teenager, named by Palestinian officials as Othman Helles, climbed a security fence during protests on July 2013, 2018 before being shot by a solider “without receiving the required permission from his commanders, not in accordance with the rules of engagement and not in accordance with the instructions he had received prior,” the court found.

The Gaza Health Ministry said the 15-year-old boy was shot in the chest. That day a further 70 people were wounded, at least 20 by live fire, and others by tear gas.

The soldier, whose name has not been released, made a plea deal with prosecutors over the killing and was sentenced to one month in prison for “disobeying an order leading to a threat to life or health,” the Israeli military said.

The jailing was a first for an Israel Defence Force member over the death of a Gazan in the weekly March of Return protests.

Another killing from the first day of the protests on March 30 is also being investigated.

Home to two million Palestinians, more than half of them war refugees and their descendants, Gaza has suffered deep poverty with vital infrastructure collapsing under a 12-year blockade by Israel, which says its aim is to curb security threats by Hamas.

Over 180 Palestinians were killed and 6,100 wounded in 2018’s clashes, a figure the UN claims may amount to war crimes on the Israeli side.

“The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities,” an inquiry by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) found in February.

The report also blamed Hamas for “indiscriminate incendiary kites and balloons, causing fear among civilians and significant damage to property in southern Israel”.