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Army Court Convicts IDF Soldiers of Using Excessive Force in Gaza

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A military court convicted four Israel Defense Force soldiers Monday for the brutal beatings more than two years ago of two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, one of whom subsequently died of his injuries.

The verdict immediately became politically divisive and raised anew the question of whether soldiers on duty should be held responsible for executing policies established at the top of the defense establishment.

The four soldiers, all members of the crack Givati Brigade, were found guilty of inflicting excessive bodily harm as a form of punishment.

All four said they would appeal. In their defense, they pointed to the higher echelons.

The highest-ranking defendant, reserve Maj. Yitzhak Levit, who was found guilty of ordering the beatings, showed no remorse.

He said the court had established a norm whereby “only those who do not take responsibility do not pay the price.”

There was strong reaction to the verdict in political circles. Likud said that once the legal process is over, it will seek a pardon, and it expects the opposition Labor Party to cooperate.

But the dovish political factions insisted that the inquiry into the treatment of Arabs be broadened into the “senior military ranks and the political ranks.”

The trial, held in a military court of the Southern Command, dealt with an incident on Feb. 7, 1988, less than two months after the intifada began. The two Palestinians beaten by soldiers were residents of El-Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, then as now a hotbed of intifada-related unrest.

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