Israeli policemen suspected of shooting dead a 10-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl in 2007 will escape prosecution after a court said that too much time had elapsed to allow a re-examination of the case.
The decision will come as a blow for the girl's parents, who have campaigned for justice for their daughter, Abir Aramin, who died after being struck in the head during a school break.
In a highly critical ruling, Israel's High Court described the police investigation into the girl's death as a "sordid affair" that had been both "sloppy" and "negligent" and ordered the state to pay the family's legal costs.
But it backed an earlier decision not to charge two border policemen allegedly involved in her death, in part because of the difficulty of conducting an investigation so long after the incident in the absence of fresh evidence.
Human rights organisation Yesh Din, which had petitioned the court to indict the policemen, expressed its dismay. "An innocent girl was shot and somebody has to take responsibility," said Haim Erlich, the NGO's director. "No justice was done."
Abir was fatally wounded in January 2007 after buying snacks with her sister and two friends during a school break in the West Bank town of Anata.
Eyewitnesses claimed that border guards, who had clashed with stone-throwing Palestinian rioters nearby, fired at the girl from a passing jeep. The police opened an investigation but closed it a short while later, arguing it was possible she had been killed by a rock and that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
Residents said there were no clashes in that particular street, and a parallel investigation and autopsy carried out by Israeli NGOs concluded that she had been killed by a rubber bullet fired by police in the jeep.
An Israeli civil court last year agreed with the girl's family, saying there was "no debate" that Abir was shot by border guards.