Israel charges soldiers over looting during Gaza war

An Israeli soldier walks past a Merkava tank after returning from the Gaza Strip during the 2014 war in the Palestinian enclave

Israeli military prosecutors have filed charges against three soldiers for alleged theft from Palestinians, and related offences, during last summer's Gaza war, the military said on Monday. They were the first indictments relating to the 50-day "Operation Protective Edge", the subject of a United Nations enquiry which is to report its findings shortly. An Israeli army statement said that charges were filed in a military court last week against three soldiers accused of "a looting crime" in Shejaiya, east of Gaza City. "Two soldiers are charged with looting money amounting to 2,420 shekels ($620, 565 euros) from a building in Shejaiya in which the troops were stationed, and another is accused of aiding and abetting the crime," it said. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in November appointed a five-member panel to investigate Israeli attacks on shelters of the UN Palestinian refugee agency during the July-August Gaza war and the discovery of Hamas weapons at UN sites. It is expected to publish its findings within days. "On seven occasions six UNRWA facilities were hit directly or indirectly and dozens of civilians, including UNRWA staff, were killed," agency spokesman Chris Gunness said on Monday. The conflict ended with a truce between Israel and the territory's Islamist de facto rulers Hamas after the deaths of about 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers. Israel maintains that Hamas militants used schools to store weapons, and fired rockets from the vicinity of schools. The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has set up a separate commission of enquiry into the actions of both sides, due to report in June. The Palestinians last month joined the International Criminal Court in a move they hope could open the door to prosecution of Israeli officials for alleged war crimes. The Israeli military is holding its own investigations, with dozens of cases currently open.