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2 Israeli soldiers convicted for actions during Gaza incursion

By the CNN Wire Staff
Israeli artillery shells rain down on Gaza buildings in January 2009 during a three-week offensive.
Israeli artillery shells rain down on Gaza buildings in January 2009 during a three-week offensive.
  • The soldiers ordered a 9-year-old boy to open a bag which might have been booby-trapped
  • The incident took place during Israel's incursion into Gaza
  • Israel has carried out investigations into troops' actions during Operation Cast Lead
  • A U.N. report last year accused Israel and Hamas of potential war crimes

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Two Israeli soldiers were convicted of ordering a 9-year-old boy to open bags they thought might be booby-trapped during Israel's incursion into Gaza nearly two years ago.

The three-judge military panel said the soldiers knew that endangering civilians is strictly forbidden by military law, according to legal papers obtained by CNN.

They have not been named or sentenced yet.

Israeli military and criminal investigators have conducted dozens of probes into actions of Israeli troops during the incursion, known as Operation Cast Lead, which was intended to halt the firing of missiles from Gaza into Israel.

More than 1,400 Palestinians died in Israel's incursion, according to officials in Gaza.

The Israeli military said 1,166 people were killed, 60 percent of whom were "terror operatives."

A 575-page report approved by the U.N. Council for Human Rights in 2009 -- accused both Israel and Hamas of "actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity" during the three-week offensive that ended in January 2009.

Earlier this year, the Israeli military disciplined two officers -- a brigadier general and a colonel -- for allowing artillery shells to be fired into a populated area of Gaza.

There was at least one earlier criminal conviction, of a soldier found guilty of stealing a credit card.

Another Israeli soldier faces a manslaughter charge in the death of a Palestinian waving a white flag during a three-week incursion, the Israeli military said in July.

The manslaughter charge was filed after an investigation into the shooting, the Israel Defense Forces said in a news release.

"This decision is based on evidence that the soldier, who was serving as a designated marksman, deliberately targeted an individual walking with a group of people waving a white flag without being ordered or authorized to do so," the IDF said.

In another incident, a battalion commander authorized sending a Palestinian man into a house sheltering terrorists next to his own house in order to persuade them to leave, the news release said.

The commander was indicted "because he deviated from authorized and appropriate IDF behavior" and ignored rules on the use of civilians in military operations, it said.

The IDF statement in July also said a criminal investigation has been ordered into an incident in which a residence holding about 100 members of a family was struck from the air.

In a separate case, an investigation into an assertion that the Ibrahim Al-Makadma mosque had been attacked concluded that that did not happen, but that an aerial strike near the mosque had occurred.

"The aerial strike targeted a terror operative involved in the launching of rockets toward Israel who was standing outside of the mosque," the news release said. "Injuries caused to civilians inside were unintentional and caused by shrapnel that penetrated the mosque."

But the investigation concluded that the officer who ordered the attack had "failed to exercise appropriate judgment" and, as a result, will not be allowed to serve in similar positions of command.

Legal measures were deemed unnecessary, however. "The military advocate general decided that the attack did not violate international laws of warfare because the attack did not target the mosque, rather it targeted a terror operative, and when the attack was authorized, no possibility of harming civilians was identified," it said.

Israeli investigators looked into more than 150 reports and conducted nearly 50 probes of incidents during Operation Cast Lead.

But Palestinians said Israel's actions were unsatisfactory.

"I think Israel should take all responsibility for all the war crimes that it is responsible for during its unjustified war in Gaza, and what they just announced is too little too late," Palestinian spokesman Ghassan Khatib told CNN in July.

CNN's Shira Medding in Jerusalem contributed to this report.