August 27, 2012 / 10:46 PM / 6 years ago

Israeli court to rule on U.S. activist Corrie death

HAIFA, Israel (Reuters) - The family of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old pro-Palestinian activist whose killing by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 drew international attention, will hear a court rule on Tuesday on their long-running civil lawsuit against Israel.

Craig (L) and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003 while volunteering as an American pro-Palestinian activist in the Gaza Strip, sit next to their daughter Sarah Corrie Simpson (C) as she and her father hold photographs depicting the scene of Rachel's death during a news conference in Jerusalem July 11, 2011. REUTERS/Nir Elias

Corrie’s family filed the lawsuit in the northern Israeli city of Haifa in 2005, accusing Israel of intentionally and unlawfully killing their daughter and failing to conduct a full and credible investigation.

At the time of her death, during a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, Corrie was protesting against Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip - action that was also condemned at the time by the United Nations.

Corrie’s death made her a symbol of the uprising, and while her family battled through the courts to establish who was responsible for her killing, her story was dramatised on stage in a dozen countries and told in the book “Let Me Stand Alone.”

“The lawsuit is just a small step in our family’s nearly decade-long search for truth and justice,” Corrie’s father, Craig, said in a statement.

Few Israelis showed much sympathy for Corrie’s death, which took place at the height of a years-long Palestinian uprising in which thousands of Palestinians were killed, and hundreds of Israelis died in suicide bombings.

Corrie, from Olympic, Washington, was crushed after standing between a bulldozer and the Palestinian homes it was demolishing in an effort to halt its work.

Israel said the bulldozer driver had not seen Corrie during the demolition and that she had been killed by a falling slab of concrete.

Witnesses said Corrie had been wearing an orange vest that had made her plainly visible.

Israel said that many dwellings in Rafah were used by militants to store weapons and attack Israeli troops, and the Justice Ministry said Corrie was “solely responsible, due to her considerable negligence and lack of caution,” for what happened to her.

“She took part in hostile and violent illegal activity, and intentionally and willingly put herself at risk ... in the Gaza Strip in general, and along the Philadelphi Corridor in particular, which were combat zones at the time and had been declared a ‘closed military zone’,” the ministry said in a statement at the opening of the trial in March 2010.

The bulldozer driver, a former army reservist who testified behind a screen in 2010 to hide his identity, replied “I don’t remember” when asked by the family’s lawyer if he recalled seeing a young woman in the brightly coloured jacket.

The ministry statement also said the state of Israel was exempt from all responsibility because the home demolition was ‘a military action in the course of war.’

Local media quoted the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, this week as telling the Corrie family Washington did not believe Israel’s investigation of the case had been as “thorough, credible and transparent” as promised.

Corrie, who was a volunteer with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, wrote in her final email to her family of the strain of sharing the Palestinians’ plight.

“One thing I do to make things easier here is to utterly retreat into fantasies that I am in a Hollywood movie or a sitcom starring Michael J. Fox,” she wrote.

Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Tim Pearce

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