Army captain cleared of unlawfully shooting girl

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The Independent Online

An Israeli army captain has been acquitted of all charges arising from the killing of a 13-year-old girl who was repeatedly shot by troops in southern Gaza in October last year.

The case was brought after soldiers in the captain's unit said he had fired at Iman al-Hams at close range while she lay wounded on the ground on the edge of the Rafah refugee camp. A tape recording of army exchanges at the scene revealed the soldiers knew she was a frightened child when they first shot her.

The girl's father reacted with anger and disbelief yesterday at the verdict delivered on Captain R, a Druze officer charged with improper use of his weapon who, during the trial, denied claims by soldiers that he had " emptied his magazine" by shooting the girl at close range to " confirm the kill".

The tape, broadcast on Israeli television after the killing, showed a soldier in a nearby watchtower had identified the victim - before she was shot -as "a girl of about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death". After that ,an officer, believed at the time to have been Captain R is heard saying: "I and another soldier ... are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill ... Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her ... I also confirmed the kill."

Although the army claimed later the tape had selectively quoted the exchanges, the same voice is clearly heard saying after the incident: " This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed."

The prosecution case suffered a blow when a witness from the unit changed his story and said other soldiers falsely testified in the Israeli press against Captain R because they did not like the way he ran his unit.

The judges reportedly took the view that a videotape vindicated Captain R's account that he mistakenly thought that a girl had been sent by militants to draw soldiers out of the base.