Soldier Sentenced for Palestinian Beatings
JERUSALEM (AP) _ An Israeli soldier was sentenced Wednesday to two months in prison for participating in the beatings of two Palestinian brothers, one of who later died.
Three other soldiers were given suspended sentences by the military court. All four - who could have faced a maximum of 20 years in prison each - were demoted in rank.
The soldiers maintained throughout the trial they were only following orders from top officers to beat Palestinian riot suspects. The order has since been changed.
Also Wednesday, a spokesman for Defense Minister Moshe Arens said the minister proposed limiting the number of Palestinians working in Israel. The plan would reverse Israeli policy begun in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Last month, Israeli authorities closed off the occupied lands for four days following a wave of violence between Palestinians and Jews.
The case of the four soldiers was seen as a test of the army’s willingness to punish troops convicted of brutality in suppressing the 34-month-old Palestinian uprising.
The three-judge court earlier this month found the defendants guilty of the Feb. 7, 1988, Gaza Strip beating of brothers Khaled and Eyad Akkal. Eyad died hours later at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
They were charged with aggravated assault because prosecutors found no direct connection between the beating and the death.
Israel army radio also quoted the judges as saying the defendants ″violated basic norms of an advanced society ... (and) operated under the distorted concept that everything is justifiable for the sake of a military mission.″
1st Lt. Ofer Reshef was ordered to serve two months in prison, given a six- month suspended sentence and reduced in rank to sergeant.
Maj. Yitzak Levitt, 32, received a three-month suspended sentence and was demoted him to 1st lieutenant. The panel said he was not directly involved in the beatings, but was responsible for them.
Staff Sgt. Eli Shukrun and Sgt. Gad Zinbar were each given a five-month suspended term and reduced in rank to private.
Earlier this month, the chief army prosecutor ordered an investigation of Col. Effie Fein, who was commander of the soldiers’ unit at the time of the beatings.
In the early months of the uprising, officers said they were ordered to beat people caught rioting, but not strike those in custody. But many soldiers said the orders were not clear. The army has since banned beatings as punishment.
Arens’s proposal to limit the Palestinian work force in Israel was made Tuesday before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said spokesman Dan Naveh said. It would have to be approved by the government.
Meanwhile, Israel is under pressure to find jobs for tens of thousands of Soviet Jewish immigrants in a country with an unemployment rate above 10 percent.
″It is now time to start changing this so Israelis will get the opportunities in Israel and Arabs will find jobs in the (occupied) territories,″ said Naveh.
The four-day closure of the borders was taken after Arab-Jewish street violence left five dead following the Oct. 8 Temple Mount killings of 20 Palestinians. It kept about 110,000 Arabs off from their jobs in Israel.
A three-man commission appointed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to look into the Temple Mount shootings released its findings Friday, stating that Palestinians had caused the violence by throwing stones at police and that police were justified in using gunfire because their lives were in danger.
The report was criticized by Israeli left-wing groups and parties as well as by Palestinians.
Betselem, an Israeli human rights group, said Wednesday that probe failed to seriously examine whether police were justified in firing live ammunition. It said the commission had a ″distinct preference for the police version over other descriptions of the same events.″
Also Wednesday, Arab reports said Muti Al Haj, 19, from the West Bank village of Jalkamous, died of injuries suffered in a clash with Israeli soldiers Sept. 10. The army was checking the report.
In the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, masked assailants stabbed to death Fayed Abu Irgayleh, 28, suspected of collaborating with Israel, Arab journalists and Israel’s news agency Itim said.
At least 769 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis in the uprising. An additional 293 Palestinians have been killed by fellow Arabs, most as suspected pro-Israeli collaborators. Fifty-one Israelis also have died.