IDF Captain Acquitted of Confirming Kill' of 13-year-old Palestinian Girl in Gaza

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A military tribunal yesterday acquitted an Israel Defense Forces captain of all charges relating to the killing of a Palestinian girl in the Gaza Strip in October last year.

The incident received widespread media attention after Captain R. was suspected of "confirming the kill" and shooting the girl multiple times after she had already been hit by IDF gunfire and was lying on the ground.

The Givati Brigade captain 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 justice, after asking his soldiers to alter testimonies they had provided to military investigators probing the incident.

In addition, R. was charged with overstepping his authority and endangering lives in light of the changes he implemented to the rules of engagement at the Gaza outpost under his command.

In their acquittal yesterday, the judges at the Southern Command's military court harshly criticized the manner in which the investigation was conducted by Military Police, as well as the media's coverage of the affair.

Family expects apology

R. was the commander at the Girit outpost on the Philadelphi Route in the south of the Gaza Strip. On October 5, 2004, he shot and killed Hams, a Rafah resident, after she approached the military position. A few days later, the incident made the news again when one of R.'s subordinates told the press that his commander had "confirmed the kill" despite being aware that the young girl did not pose a threat to the soldiers.

The report prompted the military advocate general to open an inquiry into the incident.

The military prosecution based its case primarily on the testimonies of R.'s charges, who said they had seen their commander "confirm" the kill. However, R.'s defense attorneys, Yoav Meni and Elad Eisenberg, managed to find contradictions in the testimony provided by the prosecution's witnesses during the trial, and to prove that they had lied during the MP investigation in an effort to cause R.'s ousting from the company.

R.'s father said the military court's ruling reinforced his faith in the IDF and the judicial system, adding that he expected a full apology.

Attorney Leah Tsemel, who represented the Hams family, said she wasn't surprised by the court's ruling. "It has been proved once again that the blood of a Palestinian, even if she was young and small, doesn't count for much," she said.