Bulldozer driver insists he did not see Rachel Corrie

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Israeli behind crush death testifies from behind a screen

The family of Rachel Corrie had a long and painful wait for the opportunity to come face to face in court with the driver of the Israeli Army bulldozer that crushed her to death in southern Gaza more than seven years ago. But yesterday they were denied the chance – listening instead to the driver's voice from behind a screen during four hours of testimony as he gave his own version of what happened on that fateful March afternoon.

They heard the 38-year-old insist repeatedly that the first time he had seen the American non-violent activist was after he had gone into reverse, she had been fatally hit and friends had rushed to her aid. "I didn't see her before the incident," the Russian-born former reservist said. "I saw people pulling the body from the earth."

The former driver, named in court only as YB after a gagging order forbidding publication of any identifying details, was visible only to the lawyers and the judge presiding over the civil suit being brought by the family against the State of Israel.

Ms Corrie had been in Rafah in 2003 as part of an International Solidarity Movement group seeking to protect Palestinians from house demolitions when she died. An army investigation concluded she was partially hidden behind a dirt mound and ruled her death was an accident. The driver and his commander were not charged or tried and no one was punished.

The driver said at one point yesterday that he heard over his headphones that he had hit a person. "I drove backwards and I didn't understand what was happening. There was a thought that something wasn't right. I wasn't sure. There was just a possibility I had hit someone."

Ms Corrie's mother Cindy said after yesterday's hearing that the family had appealed for at least herself, her husband and Rachel's sister to be allowed to see the former driver give evidence, but had been refused.

"I do feel the state of Israel is saying that Craig, Sarah and I are security risks. I am affronted by this. I wanted to see the whole person, not just hear the words."

The driver's evidence painted an at times confusing and contradictory picture which exposed apparent deviations from statements made by witnesses – including himself – to a Military Police investigation.

While two soldiers had said she was buried while standing on the far side of a mound of earth – away from the approaching bulldozer – YB declared: "I am absolutely certain that she was between me and the pile."

He said that with protective armour on the front of his 66-ton bulldozer, he had a "dead" area of vision which meant that he could see ground only from about 30 metres in front of him. When he was reminded that he had told the military police that the dead area was only three metres, he insisted: "It's not three or four metres. It's more."

On the fact that he had not gone to help Ms Corrie as she lay on the ground he said: "We are not allowed to leave our vehicles." Asked why he had not radioed for an ambulance, he said: "It was not at my level of command." He acknowledged that he knew there were foreign activists in the area.

When the family's attorney, Hussein Abu Hussein, put it to him that he had nevertheless been ordered by his commander to keep working, he insisted that he had seen no one in his path.

He added: "I told him that there are people around. Our instructions were not to stop and we can't allow them to stop us working. It was not my decision, it was the officer's. I am a soldier. You carry out orders." His unit had been told, among a "whole bunch of things", to be "careful" and that there were civilians in the area.

Asked later in his testimony if he had seen the foreign activists carrying anything that suggested they were "terrorists" he said: "They were carrying loudspeakers and a sign." Asked further if he had suspected they were dangerous, he said: "I suspect everyone."

Mrs Corrie said: "I wanted to keep Rachel's humility and compassion for everyone in my heart but it was very hard because I did not hear one word of remorse from the witness today."

She added: "My sense is that there were other people on the ground and in the rear who were giving the orders... and allowed the things that happened to Rachel and continue to happen."

In the firing line...

Tom Hurndall

Tom Hurndall, a 21-year-old British photojournalism student and volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) – the same organisation for which Rachel Corrie worked – died in January 2004, nine months after being shot in Gaza by an Israel Defense Forces sniper. Taysir Hayb was convicted of manslaughter by an Israeli military court in 2005.

James Miller

Just three weeks after Tom Hurndall's shooting, another Briton, the documentary-maker James Miller, was shot and killed in the Gazan city of Rafah. His film, Death in Gaza, depicted Miller and his colleagues carrying a white flag as they walked through a refugee camp. The Israeli army decided that the soldier suspected of firing the shot would not be indicted as they could not establish for certain that his shot was responsible.

Tristan Anderson

Another ISM volunteer, the American Tristan Anderson, was critically injured after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops in March last year, as they tried to disperse a demonstration. Anderson underwent emergency brain surgery in Israel, where doctors had to remove part of his frontal lobe and fragments of shattered bone. Anderson's girlfriend, an American-Israeli, said he was taking photographs when the canister was fired. After more than a year in a Tel Aviv hospital, Anderson returned home to California.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary