FLASHBACK: Israeli officer: I was right to shoot 13-year-old childRadio exchange contradicts army version of Gaza killing
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Wednesday 24 November 2004
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An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old.
The officer, identified by the army only as Captain R, was charged this week with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun's magazine into Iman al-Hams when she walked into a "security area" on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.
A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers involved in the incident, played on Israeli television, contradicts the army's account of the events and appears to show that the captain shot the girl in cold blood.
The official account claimed that Iman was shot as she walked towards an army post with her schoolbag because soldiers feared she was carrying a bomb.
But the tape recording of the radio conversation between soldiers at the scene reveals that, from the beginning, she was identified as a child and at no point was a bomb spoken about nor was she described as a threat. Iman was also at least 100 yards from any soldier.
Instead, the tape shows that the soldiers swiftly identified her as a "girl of about 10" who was "scared to death".
The tape also reveals that the soldiers said Iman was headed eastwards, away from the army post and back into the refugee camp, when she was shot.
At that point, Captain R took the unusual decision to leave the post in pursuit of the girl. He shot her dead and then "confirmed the kill" by emptying his magazine into her body.
The tape recording is of a three-way conversation between the army watchtower, the army post's operations room and the captain, who was a company commander.
The soldier in the watchtower radioed his colleagues after he saw Iman: "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."
Witnesses described how the captain shot Iman twice in the head, walked away, turned back and fired a stream of bullets into her body. Doctors at Rafah's hospital said she had been shot at least 17 times.
On the tape, the company commander then "clarifies" why he killed Iman: "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."
The army's original account of the killing said that the soldiers only identified Iman as a child after she was first shot. But the tape shows that they were aware just how young the small, slight girl was before any shots were fired.
The case came to light after soldiers under the command of Captain R went to an Israeli newspaper to accuse the army of covering up the circumstances of the killing.
A subsequent investigation by the officer responsible for the Gaza strip, Major General Dan Harel, concluded that the captain had "not acted unethically".
However, the military police launched an investigation, which resulted in charges against the unit commander.
Iman's parents have accused the army of whitewashing the affair by filing minor charges against Captain R. They want him prosecuted for murder.
Record of a shooting
'It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastward'
'Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?'
'A girl of about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death'
Captain R (after killing the girl)
'Anything moving in the zone, even a three-year-old, needs to be killed'