JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman near the Gaza frontier in 2018 has been given 45 days of community service after an army investigation concluded he fired without authorization, the military said Thursday.
The military said a group of Palestinians had approached the fence but were far away when the paratrooper opened fire, striking one of them. Its statement did not identify the soldier or the Palestinian, or say whether he was killed.
Nawaf al-Attar, a 23-year-old fisherman was shot and killed by Israeli troops near the northern beach frontier on Nov. 14, 2018, when the military said the shooting occurred.
It happened a few hours after a cease-fire took effect following a brief round of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants. The area near the fence had seen weekly protests at the time that often turned violent, but there were no demonstrations that day.
The military said the soldier reached a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to charges of negligence and reckless endangerment. He received a suspended sentence and was demoted to the rank of private.
Gaza has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces there in 2007. Since then, Hamas and other militant groups have fought three wars and engaged in numerous smaller battles with Israel.
Rights groups have accused Israel of using excessive force and of failing to adequately investigate the killing of civilians. Israel says it makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties and accuses Palestinian militants of using civilians as human shields.
“Enforcing a military occupation on millions of people for decades requires exorbitant violence and impunity for the soldiers who sustain it,” the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said in a statement.
“Forty-five days of community service for killing a man is but the latest example of how the military law enforcement system is designed to protect perpetrators, not their victims.”
An Associated Press investigation last year found that the military had opened investigations into 24 potentially criminal shootings of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza over the previous year. None of the cases at that time had yielded convictions or even indictments, and in most cases the army had not interviewed key witnesses or retrieved evidence from the field.
The Palestinian Authority has asked the International Criminal Court to probe alleged Israeli war crimes, including allegations related to violence in Gaza. Israel has sought to rally the international community against any investigation, arguing that the Palestinians lack legal standing and that its own courts investigate and punish any misconduct.
Israel does not recognize the ICC, but any charges could put Israeli officials at risk of arrest in other countries.
Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.