Death in Gaza: Tape Reveals How Israeli Captain Pursued and Shot to Death a Fleeing Thirteen-Year-Old Girl

660px-flag_of_israelsvg1A very disturbing story had emerged from Gaza after the shooting of a child. People are not only alarmed at the shooting of 13–year-old Iman al-Hams, but by the attitude and lack of remorse of an Israeli officer who killedher. When confronted by other soldiers, the officer said that he did not care if she was a child and would have killed her even if she was three under the standing orders given to soldiers in the campaign. Yet, the officer, identified only a Captain R, was charged with only minor offenses after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun’s magazine into Iman when she walked into a “security area” on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.

The charges in the case are curious: illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions. What happened to murder? There certainly seems sufficient evidence to try the man on such a count and it is difficult to see why his identity is being protected.

A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers shows what unfolded with Iman walked towards an army post. The soldiers at least 100 yards from any soldier and, while a bomb is always feared in such situations, no one described her as a threat. She was identified as a “girl of about 10” who was “scared to death.” Worse yet, the soldiers describe her as heading east – away from the army post and toward the refugee camp when she was shot. Captain R had to leave the post and pursue the girl to shoot her and later “confirm the kill” after emptying his magazine into the child.

The tape played on Israeli television is chilling. When Iman is spotted a soldier radios: “It’s a little girl. She’s running defensively eastward.”

Operations room: “Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?”

Watchtower: “A girl of about 10, she’s behind the embankment, scared to death.”

A few minutes later, Iman is shot in the leg from one of the army posts.

The watchtower: “I think that one of the positions took her out.”

The company commander then moves in as Iman lies wounded and helpless.

Captain R: “I and another soldier … are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill … Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her … I also confirmed the kill. Over.”

Doctors at Rafah’s hospital said she had been shot at least 17 times.

The company commander goes out of his away to “clarif[y]” the standing orders and explain why the girl had to die: “This is commander. Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over.”

Major General Dan Harel later concluded that the captain had “not acted unethically”, but a military investigation called for the charges. The question remains why, on this alleged tape alone, murder charges are not being pursued and why Harel has not been removed from command. This soldier may have a defense, but there is clearly a reasonable basis for a murder charge. As for Harel, his failure to take any action or even order further investigation should be clear evidence that he is unfit for service.

There is growing unease around the world over the civilian deaths in this campaign, including the use of heavy bombs in residential areas. One would think that the Israeli government would want to show that it is pursuing cases on this kind with speed and seriousness. If this tape is accurate, conduct unbecoming an officer is a ridiculous and insulting charge. Any one of a number of facts — if proven — would create a basis for a murder conviction: the fact that she was identified as a child who was scared and walking away; the fact that she was wounded and trying to return to the refugee area; the fact that she had not apparent weapon when shot. The government needs to explain why such facts justify such minor charges and how this tape is not an accurate account of what occurred in Gaza.

For the full story, click here.

15 thoughts on “Death in Gaza: Tape Reveals How Israeli Captain Pursued and Shot to Death a Fleeing Thirteen-Year-Old Girl”

  1. Not the best analogy or example, Arun. Hamas’ use of civilian facilities, humans shields, and refusal to wear uniforms or easily identifiable badges – not to mention their attacks on solely civilian targets – make them war criminals and “illegal combatants” every moment of very single day of the engagements.

    So – under international treaty – who’s worse? And do the convention even apply to actions taken against Hamas?

  2. Yes, the conventions on war crimes established after World War II override sovereignty; i.e., no nation has a sovereign right to commit war crimes.

  3. But this is moral and ethical behavior?

    Yeah. Right.

    And if recent has to be a qualification, then maybe Israel should just stop mentioning the Holocaust as justification for anything and everything. Ever.

  4. Y’all realize that this story actually describes events that happened in 2004, right? Not that that makes it more defensible, if described accurately, but the tone of Turley’s piece suggests that this event is somehow directly a result of the current military action. In fact, I thought he was describing something that happened very recently, until I clicked on the link.

  5. Tell me, do any of you believe in the sovereignty of nations? As far as I can see, the UN has no right to tell any sovereign nation what to do within its borders. If they want the “right” to do so, they have have to be willing to send in troops to assert the “might” necessary to enact their will.

  6. rafflaw,

    I wasn’t clear, sorry. I’m saying the rest of the world should work around us, giving no credence to our opposition to the cease fire. Other countries should insist on a cease fire and move ahead whether the US agrees or disagrees with the cease fire. This must stop.

  7. Jill,
    I understand that the our illegal attack and occupation in Iraq by the Bush administration has weakened our position in the world and I can understand why other countries would be less interested in listening to us, except the action in the UN by the US to scuttle a cease fire is immoral at best. The only thing that these kind of attacks(like our experience in Iraq) do is create more terrorists.

  8. rafflaw,

    I heard that news and was truly disgusted as well. A cease fire would help Israel and opposing the killing would be an act of friendship not to mention it is the only right and sane thing to do. We are up to no good here.

    If we blew off the rest of the world on Iraq I think it’s more than fair for them to go around us, quickly and openly to stop this madness.

  9. “Can the US be held responsible for war crimes for enabling this kind of vicious attack?”


    Probably not in a temporal court like the ICC, but Jefferson’s words give me an uneasy feeling about our role here — “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

  10. This is one of the most reprehensible cases that I have ever seen. It would be different if she was armed and approaching them or putting the soldiers at risk. This girl was already wounded and the soldiers put 16-17 shots into her! The Israeli’s are guilty of war crimes in this so-called defensive action in Gaza. And the Bush Administration has blocked an attempt by the UN to call for an immediate cease fire. Can the US be held responsible for war crimes for enabling this kind of vicious attack?

  11. And you think Dickens didn’t understand human nature when he penned “The Tale of Two Cities,” and created the infamous Marquis St. Evrémonde. Causing the death of an innocent child trapped in a war zone is the most morally reprehensible of acts excepting only perhaps lacking any regret for being involved in it. A pox on their house and their cause.

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