Ori Lewis
April 27, 2010 - 12:00am

Israel's army chief has reprimanded two senior officers over the killing of four Palestinians in two separate shooting incidents in the West Bank last month, the military said on Tuesday.

Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi determined after military investigations of the incidents that commanders and soldiers could have behaved differently to avoid the killings.

In the first incident, two teenagers were shot dead in the village of Iraq Burin on March 20 as troops moved in to protect Jewish settlers from Palestinians protesting against Israeli settlement policy.

A day later, soldiers near the village of Awarta fatally shot two Palestinian youngsters who they believed were trying to kill them, a military statement said.

Ashkenazi reprimanded a brigade commander, who is a colonel, and a battalion commander, who is a lieutenant-colonel, and ordered a squad leader, a first-sergeant, to be removed from operational duties, the statement said.

"The chief of staff determined that from a professional standpoint, the events could have ended differently," the statement said.

Ashkenazi, it said, "ordered the implementation of the lessons learned in the investigation so that incidents of this kind can be prevented in the future".

There was no word of any disciplinary action in terms of demotion or punishment against any lower-ranking soldiers involved in the two events, and the army said military police were still investigating the Iraq Burin shooting.

Palestinian officials and Israeli and international human rights groups have long accused the Israeli military of failing to take tough action against soldiers suspected of improper conduct towards Palestinians. The Israeli military insists its rules of engagement -- troops are under orders to use non-lethal riot control methods unless their lives are threatened -- are rigorously enforced and that any alleged violations are investigated properly.


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