IDF Sergeant Sentenced to Prison for Role in Bulldozer Incident

A military court gave an Israel Defense Force staff sergeant a four-month prison term and a six-month suspended sentence Sunday in connection with the attempted live burial of four Arab youths by Israeli soldiers.

Sgt. Charley Danino also was reduced in rank to private. He had pleaded innocent, claiming he was not at the scene when the incident occurred on Feb. 5, in Kafr Salim village, near Nablus.

The court accepted evidence to the contrary given by a reserve soldier. It found that even though Danino’s role had been “passive,” he was guilty of assault and conduct unbecoming a soldier.

The four Palestinians allegedly had participated in rioting and stone-throwing. The soldiers who seized them ordered a civilian bulldozer driver to pile earth over their bound bodies. They were rescued by villagers after the soldiers left.

The incident, reported widely by the foreign news media, had international repercussions and seriously harmed Israel’s image abroad.

“Whoever was responsible for this will be punished accordingly,” Maj. Gen. Ehud Barak, the IDF deputy chief of staff promised reporters at a news briefing on Feb. 17. Two soldiers were tried and convicted in a plea-bargaining deal in March and sentenced to short prison terms.

Danino was the last to be tried. The court found his conduct reprehensible because he was the senior soldier on the scene and did nothing to stop the burial. The judges ruled that even though Danino is married, as a professional soldier he should be punished at least as severely as the other two, who were young conscripts.

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