Crisis in Gaza

Not Guilty: Israeli Soldier Shot Palestinian Girl 17 Times

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An Israeli army officer, who killed a 13-year-old Palestinian girl by shooting her 17 times, has been acquitted on all charges by an Israeli military court.

Last year, Iman al-Hams walked into a security zone at an Israeli army post along the Gaza Strip border, an area forbidden for all non-military personnel. She was also carrying a backpack, which is a common carrying-case for explosives for suicide bombers.

A soldier in a watchtower saw the girl, and radioed troops on the ground. In a recording obtained by an Israeli television station, the soldier describes Iman as "a little girl" who was "scared to death." Troops opened fire. She dropped the bag and started running. They then fired at the bag, establishing that it did not contain explosives. The recording reveals she was running away from the army post when she was shot.

An officer identified only as "Captain R" moved in for "confirmation of the kill," which is apparently standard procedure. But Palestinian witnesses say while she was lying on the ground, Capt. R opened fire at the girl, emptying his weapon.

On the tape, Captain R "clarifies" to the soldiers under his command why he killed Iman: "This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the (security) zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed."

Captain R was not charged with her killing, rather he was charged with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and perverting the course of justice by asking soldiers under his command to alter their accounts of the incident.

Captain R claimed he did not fire the shots at the girl, only near her. But Dr. Mohammed al-Hams, who inspected the child's body, counted numerous wounds.

"She has at least 17 bullets in several parts of the body, all along the chest, hands, arms, legs," he told the British newspaper the Guardian shortly afterwards. "The bullets were large and shot from a close distance. The most serious injuries were to her head. She had three bullets in the head. One bullet was shot from the right side of the face beside the ear. It had a big impact on the whole face."

Following the verdict, Captain R burst into tears, turned to the public benches and said: "I told you I was innocent."

After the verdict, Iman's father, Samir al-Hams, said the army never intended to hold the soldier accountable.

"They did not charge him with Iman's murder, only with small offenses, and now they say he is innocent of those even though he shot my daughter so many times," he said. "This was the cold-blooded murder of a girl. The soldier murdered her once and the court has murdered her again. What is the message? They are telling their soldiers to kill Palestinian children."

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