Court: No Compensation for Bedouin Child Killed by 'Dud' Grenade in IDF Firing Zone

Judge rules that May 2006 death was due to explosion while child played with unexploded ordnance in army firing zone near his home.

An Israel Defense Forces firing zone in the Negev.
Emil Salman

The Kiryat Gat Magistrate’s Court ruled Tuesday against a lawsuit by the Abu Lakima family of the Negev, whose son Diab was killed in May 2006 in an explosion of what seemed to be a dud grenade, in an Israeli army firing zone.

In light of the tragedy, Judge Israel Pablo Akselrad did not impose court costs on the family.

Diab, then 13, and his 7-year-old brother Nisim entered Israel Defense Forces Firing Zone No. 408 at Tze’elim, near the Bedouin town of Bir Hadaj where they lived. The lawsuit claimed that the two were riding a donkey when the unexploded ordnance suddenly exploded and killed Diab; his brother was wounded

Judge Akselrad rejected the family’s claims and accepted the expert opinion provided by the State Prosecutor’s Office, which stated that the explosion occurred while Diab played with the shell. The expert said that because Nisim’s right hand was hurt while the donkey was injured on its left side, it was unreasonable to deduce that the incident occurred while the brothers were riding on the donkey together. Moreover, the fact that there was a large amount of explosives residue on Diab’s right hand showed that it had been very close to the explosion. Akselrad thus determined that the explosion occurred only after the shell had received some sort of a blow.

The prosecutor’s office had introduced evidence showing that the IDF had not used such shells in the training area in the two years preceding the incident, and the lawyers explained that just two months beforehand, the army had scoured the area looking for duds and found none. The closest area in which such a grenade had been used was Firing Zone No. 412, some 12 kilometers away; it was thus suggested that the unexploded ordnance must have been brought in from elsewhere. The judge dismissed the claims that the shell had been carried to the site in a flood, and that there was a lack of warning signs at the site.