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Middle East
US family seeks Israeli damages
Case concerns Rachel Corrie's death during protest against Palestinian home demolitions.
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2010 11:50 GMT

The family of a US student activist killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza has launched a case against the Israeli government.  

Rachel Corrie, whose family is seeking $324,000 in damages from the defence ministry, was one of several foreign activists killed in confrontations with Israel in occupied territory in the past decade.

She was nonviolently protesting against Palestinian home demolitions when the army bulldozer crushed her to death.

The proceedings on Wednesday in the Haifa district court in northern Israel, are likely to stoke controversy over Israel's treatment of pro-Palestinian protesters.

The Israeli army says Corrie, 23, a member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, was fatally hit by a concrete slab on March 16, 2003, as a bulldozer cleared a hideout for Palestinian fighters in the Gaza area.

The Israeli government failed to conduct a thorough investigation into Corrie's killing and her family, advised by the US state department, then filed a private lawsuit five years ago.

Witness accounts

Corrie's family, citing witness accounts, has charged the Israeli driver must have spotted her before moving the blade in her direction.

Corrie's family says the Bulldozer must have spotted her before hitting her [Gallo/Getty]
 

But Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Leibovich, an Israeli army spokeswoman, told the Reuters news agency in an interview that "the crew inside the bulldozer did not see her nor hear her".

She said tear gas and stun grenades had been fired to warn protesters to flee.

Cindy Corrie, the victim's mother, said in a statement: "As we approach the seven-year anniversary of Rachel's killing, my family and I are still searching for justice."

According to the family, the aim of the trial is not to get compensation but to find out the circumstances behind Rachel's death and hold the Israeli military responsible.

Four other activists who witnessed the incident in Gaza are to testify in the case.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Haifa, said: "In a very interesting twist, just a few days ago, the state of Israel filed a motion that was accepted by the court, which means that they have 30 days after the end of this two-week period to submit witness testimonies and affadavits.

"Its a very unusual motion to have been granted. It means that the plaintiffs will be giving their testimonies without knowing what Israel has up its sleeves.

"The family lawyer said this is just a way to delay the whole procedure."

Israelis have shown little sympathy for Corrie, whose death occurred at the height of a Palestinian uprising in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank in which thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis were killed.

The case is expected to fuel anger in a nation facing accusations by a UN report that its army and Palestinian fighters committed war crimes during the 2008-9 Israel-Gaza conflict.
   
Steven Plaut, an Israeli from Haifa, charged in a column for the Jewish Press newspaper that Corrie's parents were a "two-person anti-Israel propaganda SWAT team" who supported Israel's enemies.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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