The Military Advocate for Operational Affairs brought criminal charges today (11 March 2010) against two IDF soldiers in the rank of SSG (Staff Sergeant), who ordered a nine-years-old Palestinian to open bags and suitcases suspected to be booby-trapped.

This occurred while the soldiers were conducting a sweep of a building in the Tel-el-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City, during the final days of Operation “Cast Lead”.

The indictment was filed with the District Military Court, for offences of excess of authority to the extent of endangering life or health and of conduct unbecoming.

The incident was initially reported by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy. Later on, additional information on this matter was provided by an Israeli NGO (Defence for Children International – Israel Section). Consequently, the criminal investigation was launched in June 2009.

It should be emphasized, that in accordance with the Military Advocate General’s policy regarding the investigation of allegations concerning operational conduct, and in light of the nature of the claim made with respect to this specific incident, no command investigation preceded the decision to launch a criminal investigation.

Prior to and during Operation “Cast Lead”, all IDF ground forces were instructed it is absolutely prohibited to coerce civilians to assist in operational activity, especially when such assistance might endanger civilians’ life or limb, and in particular when minors are concerned. This rule was also expressed by the jurisprudence of the Israeli Supreme Court.