Israeli sniper gets one-month sentence for killing Gaza teenager

An Israeli soldier killed a Palestinian teenager and got one month in jail
2 min read
30 October, 2019
The ruling is the first conviction of an Israeli soldier over the death of a Palestinian protester since demonstrations began in March 2018.
The Gaza protests called for the right of return of Palestinians refugees. [Getty]

An Israeli soldier has been sentenced to one month in prison after being convicted by a military court on Monday of killing a Palestinian teenager during mass demonstrations in Gaza last year.

The protests - dubbed "the Great Return March" – called for the right of return of refugees and an end to Israel's crippling decade-long blockade.

The demonstrations, which began on March 2018, peaked on 14 May when the US moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem.

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Over 61 Palestinians were killed and 2,400 injured on that day, while tens of thousands protested along the besieged strip's border.

At least 305 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began. Seven Israelis have also lost their lives.

Monday's ruling is the first conviction of an Israeli soldier over the death of Palestinian protesters since demonstrations began in March 2018.

The sniper, whose name has been withheld, was found guilty of disobeying an order and will serve one month of military-related labour as well as a demotion to the rank of private and put on probation, The Times of Israel reported.

Othman Helles, 15, was shot dead as he climbed the Israeli-built security barrier surrounding the Gaza Strip on 13 July 2018.

The Israeli sniper opened fire "without obtaining permission from his commanders while not following the rules of engagement or the instructions given to him earlier", the Israeli army said in a statement.

The Gaza health ministry said the teenager was shot in the chest.

Video footage of the incident shows that the 15-year-old posed no direct or mortal threat at the time he was shot.

At the time, the Israeli army claimed Helles was trying to enter Israel.

Israel has come under widespread criticism for its use of live fire against unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza.

Earlier this year, the United Nations said there was evidence that Israel committed crimes against humanity in responding to the protests.

Israeli snipers have targeted people clearly identifiable as children, health workers and journalists.

"Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity," the chair of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry said in a statement.

Gaza has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007, which rights groups say amounts to collective punishment of the impoverished strip's 2 million residents.

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