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Middle East

Israeli soldiers given suspended sentences for using child as human shield

media Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border in 2009 AFP/Menahem Kahana

Two Israeli soldiers received suspended sentences and demotions Sunday for using a Palestinian child as a human shield by making him check for bombs during the 2008-2009 Gaza offensive, Israeli army radio said.

The two Israeli Defence Force soldiers were each given suspended terms of three months' imprisonment and were demoted from staff sergeant to sergeant, it reported.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

The military spokesperson's office had no immediate comment on the sentencing of the two men, who were convicted on 3 October for forcing a nine-year-old boy to search bags believed to be booby-trapped during Israel's 22-day war on Gaza.

Gerard Horton, a spokesperson in the West Bank for Geneva-based rights group Defence for Children International (DCI), described the sentence as "unbelievable", claimed that the trial aimed to deflect attention from the UN-mandated Goldstone report  on the Gaza offensive.

Israel's Supreme Court banned the army from using human shields in October 2005.

Since then, DCI had documented 15 breaches of the ban in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Horton said.

During the trial, the boy, identified as Majd R, said he feared for his life as one of the soldiers ordered him at gunpoint to open a suspect bag.

"I thought they would kill me. I became very scared and wet my pants," he said in an affidavit given to DCI.

The military court declared that when the incident occurred in January 2009, the troops had been under "difficult and dangerous combat conditions" and had spent several nights without sleep.

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