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Israeli soldier handed one month community service for killing of Gaza teenager

Unnamed soldier is first to be sentenced in Israeli military probe into Gaza killings 

Bel Trew
Jerusalem
Wednesday 30 October 2019 17:36 GMT
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A boy is carried away by a rescue worker during the Gaza protest on Friday
A boy is carried away by a rescue worker during the Gaza protest on Friday (REUTERS)

An Israeli soldier who shot dead a Palestinian minor in Gaza has been sentenced to a month of military community service and demoted to the rank of private, according to reports.

It marks the first time an Israeli soldier has been sentenced since a slew of criminal investigations were launched by the army over its handling of protests in Gaza.

Othman Ramis Helles was killed during a protest near the Karni crossing east of Gaza City on 13 July 2018.

The ruling, as quoted by Israeli media, states that the soldier fired his weapon towards the unarmed teenager “disobeying an order leading to a threat to life or health".

Footage of the incident shows Helles first standing by the separation fences between Israel and Gaza before being shot in the chest while attempting to climb it during weekly rallies.

Haaretz reported that the soldier admitted in a plea bargain to firing his weapon towards the child, causing potential endangerment without the approval of his commanders and without acting in compliance with the rules of engagement.

Othman’s father, Rami Helles, told The New York Times he was deeply disappointed by the sentence.

“I was hoping for financial compensation and jailing him for a longer period,” he said. “This is unjust.”

He also told the NYT he feared that the soldier’s punishment would “encourage his colleagues to kill in cold blood” rather than working as a deterrent.

Israeli media reported that Israeli army sources were provided no evidence that the soldier's action actually caused Helles' death and so he was not convicted of a more serious charge of manslaughter.

The inquiry into Helles' killing and the death of 18-year-old Abed Nabi on 30 March 2018 were the first ordered by military prosecutor General Sharon Afek in August 2018.

The probe investigates Israeli soldiers' use of lethal force in the border demonstrations that began last March against an Israeli-imposed blockade on the tiny strip.

Israeli soldiers have been accused by the United Nations of committing possible war crimes after killing over 250 Palestinians who participated in the demonstrations. An Israeli soldier has been killed by a Gaza sniper during the same time period.

Protests have included attempts to breach Israel’s security fence along the frontier.

Israel has defended its use of force, saying protesters have endangered lives by launching balloons and kites with incendiary devices at Israel as well as attacking their soldiers.

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