Thu, Nov 25, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Israeli army officer defends shooting of Palestinian child

`CONFIRMED KILL' The soldier who pumped 10 bullets into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl said he would have killed her even if she was three years old

THE GUARDIAN , JERUSALEM

An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old.

The officer, identified by the army only as Captain R, was charged this week with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun's magazine into Iman al-Hams when she walked into a "security area" on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.

A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers involved in the incident, played on Israeli television, contradicts the army's account of the events and appears to show that the captain shot the girl in cold blood.

The official account claimed that Iman was shot as she walked toward an army post with her schoolbag because soldiers feared she was carrying a bomb.

But the tape recording of the radio conversation between soldiers at the scene reveals that, from the beginning, she was identified as a child and at no point was a bomb spoken about nor was she described as a threat.

Instead, the tape shows that the soldiers swiftly identified her as a "girl of about 10" who was "scared to death."

The tape also reveals that the soldiers said Iman was headed away from the army post when she was shot.

At that point, Captain R took the unusual decision to leave the post in pursuit of the girl. He shot her dead and then "confirmed the kill" by emptying his magazine into her body.

The tape recording is of a three-way conversation between the army watchtower, the army post's operations room and the captain, who was a company commander.

The soldier in the watchtower radioed his colleagues after he saw Iman: "It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastward."

Operations room: "Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?"

Watchtower: "A girl of about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death."

A few minutes later, Iman is shot in the leg from one of the army posts.

The watchtower: "I think that one of the positions took her out."

The company commander then moves in as Iman lies wounded and helpless.

"I and another soldier ... are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill," Captain R said. "Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her ... I also confirmed the kill. Over."

Doctors at Rafah's hospital said she had been shot at least 17 times.

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