Israel to Back Soldiers Accused of War Crimes

Government fears tribunals following civilian deaths in Gaza war
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 25, 2009 4:35 PM CST
""The state of Israel will fully back those who acted on its behalf," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, pictured, said.   (GALI TIBBON)
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(Newser) – Special legal teams will defend Israeli soldiers against potential war crimes charges stemming from civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said today, promising the country would "fully back" those who fought in the three-week offensive. "The soldiers and commanders who were sent on missions in Gaza must know that they are safe from various tribunals,” Olmert said.

The move reflected growing concerns by Israel that officers could be subject to international prosecution, despite the army's claims that Hamas militants caused the civilian casualties by staging attacks from residential areas. The assault reportedly killed 1,285 Palestinians—more than half of them civilians—and Israel has also faced criticism for using white phosphorous and striking UN buildings.