An Israeli court said U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie was accidentally killed by the army, rejecting a lawsuit brought by her family alleging that the killing was deliberate.
Corrie, 23, of Olympia, Washington was run over by a military bulldozer in March 2003 as she stood between it and Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip, according to the suit. The family said Corrie was crushed intentionally as she tried to prevent the demolition of the buildings.
Judge Oded Gershon said that evidence from witnesses showed that the army had no intention of demolishing homes on that day and that Corrie had been kneeling and was out of the line of sight of the bulldozer driver when she was hit, according to an e-mailed summary of the court decision.
Corrie family lawyer Hussein Abu Hussein said the verdict highlights a “systemic failure to hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic human rights,” and represents a “stamp of approval to flawed and illegal practices that failed to protect civilian life.”
The family has decided to appeal, army radio said.
Corrie and other activists, many from the International Solidarity Movement, were near the so-called Philadelphi Route, which separates Egypt and Gaza.
At the time, Israeli troops on that route were regularly targeted by snipers, rockets and roadside bombs, and the bulldozers were clearing an area to prevent attacks on military vehicles and patrolling soldiers, according to government testimony to the court.
“The claim that the deceased was intentionally hit by the bulldozer is totally baseless,” Gershon wrote in the decision. “This was an extremely unfortunate accident.”
The verdict was based on three investigations that made clear that the driver could not see Corrie and could not have avoided the “tragic accident,” the State Prosecutor’s Office said in an e-mailed statement. It said an expert who testified on behalf of the Corrie family agreed with the finding.