Trial Over Death of U.S. Activist Rachel Corrie Begins

Family meets with members of Biden entourage; U.S. wants Israel to hold a more thorough investigation.

Akiva Eldar
Fadi Eyadat Haaretz Service, Associated Press
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Akiva Eldar
Fadi Eyadat Haaretz Service, Associated Press

The family of an American activist who was fatally crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza accused Israel of whitewashing its investigation into the death Wednesday in the opening of a civil case against Israel.

The parents of Rachel Corrie are seeking unspecified compensation from Israel's Defense Ministry for their daughter's death in 2003.

Corrie, a U.S. citizen, was 24 when she was struck and killed in 2003 by a bulldozer as she and other activists tried to stop Israel razing homes in Rafah by using their bodies as human shields.

The driver said he didn't see her, and the Israel Defense Forces has ruled her death an accident - a version her parents reject.

At Wednesday's opening of the civil case, the Corries' lawyer demanded a new investigation into her death.

"The Israeli government is covering this up under the umbrella of combat activity, which absolves soldiers of responsibility," said Husein Abu Husein. He said he would present his case over the next two weeks, but a ruling isn't expected for about a year.

Members of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's entourage on Tuesday met with the Corrie family, which is in Israel for the trial. According to the family's legal team, Biden's national security adviser Antony Blinken promised to bring to Biden's attention that Israel has neither taken responsibility for Corrie's death nor undertaken a thorough investigation of the incident.

In the damages suit filed by the Corrie family it is stated that no thorough and objective investigation was held into the death, which the family maintains occurred either because of intent or the bulldozer driver's negligence. The plaintiffs also maintain that the recording documenting the incident was deleted.

During the meeting with the Corries, U.S. officials said that Obama administration holds the same position as the George W. Bush administration - that the IDF investigation was not thorough enough and that Israel should conduct a more comprehensive probe into the matter.

Officials also told the family that a representative from the U.S. embassy would be present throughout the course of the trial.

Corrie was an activist with the International Solidarity Movement, which often sends foreign activists into volatile hot spots to assist Palestinians.

One other International Solidarity Movement activist has died from Israeli fire, and at least two others have been seriously wounded.

The Corries unsuccessfully tried to sue Caterpillar Inc., the U.S. company that manufactured the bulldozer.



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