IDF Court Acquits Officer Accused of 'Confirming Kill' of Gaza Girl

Father of girl killed in southern Gaza: 'The verdict proves there is one law for Jews, another for Arabs.'

Amos Harel
Haaretz Service
Nir Hasson
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The Southern Command court on Tuesday acquitted Israel Defense Forces Captain "R" of all charges relating to the killing of a Palestinian girl in the Gaza Strip in October 2004.

The case received wide-spread media attention when R was suspected of "confirming the kill" and shooting the girl multiple times once she had already been hit by IDF gunfire and was lying on the ground.

The father of Iman al-Hams, Samir, reacted with anger and shock to Captain R's acquittal. "I am a teacher and I object to the killing of Jewish or Arab children under any circumstances, but the court has proven there is one law for Jews and another for Arabs," he said after the verdict was issued.

"This acquittal tells us more about the court than it tells us about this criminal," al-Hams continued. "But I was surprised and shocked that he wasn't even punished with a minimal sentence so we can be somewhat relieved," al-Hams said adding that "had an Arab killed a Jewish girl, this would not have been his sentence."

The family's attorney Leah Zimmel said this was not the end of the affair and that the al-Hams family intends to appeal against the sentence, including at the High Court of Justice and international courts if necessary.

The charges R, of the Givati infantry brigade, was charged with manslaughter in the death of 13-year-old Iman al-Hams. He was also charged with the illegal use of his weapon and with obstruction of court proceedings after asking his soldiers to alter testimonies they provided to military investigators probing the incident.

Further, R was charged with exceeding his authority while endangering life for the changes he implemented to open-fire regulations in the Gaza outpost under his command.

Al-Hams was shot dead by IDF soldiers commanded by Captain R after she approached their "Girit" outpost adjacent to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

R's defense attorneys, Yoav Meni and Elad Eisenberg, succeeded in finding contradictions in testimony provided by the prosecution's witnesses during the trial.

The witnesses, Givati Brigade soldiers from R's company, said they lied during the military probe of the incident and in statements they provided the court in an effort the cause the ousting of R from the company.

Defense attorneys also maintained that what appeared to be "confirmation" of the girl's death by R was, in fact, a known IDF practice employed to eliminate immediate threats.

Hard to appeal Chief military prosecutor Brig. Gen. Avihail Mandelblit said he does not regret he served the indictment against R, saying "there were testimonies of people who saw him firing his weapon and there was evidence for an alleged criminal act."

"However," he continued, "the verdict is a mark of honor to the court and right now it seems it would be hard to appeal against it," Mandelblit concluded.

R's father said the military court's ruling reinforced with faith in the IDF and the judicial system but also said he expects a full apology.