An Israeli court on Tuesday cleared the military of any responsibility for the death of US activist Rachel Corrie who was killed in 2003 by a bulldozer in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, rejecting a civil suit filed by her family.
"I reached the conclusion that there was no negligence on the part of the bulldozer driver," said Judge Oded Gershon at the District Court in the northern city of Haifa.
“This was a very unfortunate accident and not an action undertaken with intent… The deceased put herself into a dangerous situation, standing in front of a large bulldozer in a place where the operator could not see her. She did not distance herself as a reasonable person would have done.”
Corrie’s death, the Judge said, was “the result of an accident she brought upon herself.”
At the time, Corrie was a member of a group of activists from the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement protesting against Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah.
In the ruling read out to the court, judge Gershon added:« I hereby determine unequivocally that there is no foundation to the plaintiffs' claim that the bulldozer struck the decedent intentionally. This was a very unfortunate accident and was not intentional. No one wished to harm the decedent. I was convinced that the bulldozer's operator would not have continued to work if he had seen the decedent standing in front of the bulldozer, as he and his colleagues acted in similar circumstances earlier that day, when they moved from location to location because of the disturbances caused by the members of the Organization.”
He said the state was not responsible because the incident had occurred “during a war-time situation.”
"I reject the suit," the judge said. "There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages."
He added that the soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site. "She (Corrie) did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done."
The verdict echoed the findings of an internal investigation by the Israeli military in 2003 which was concluded just four weeks after her death and cleared troops of any responsibility, saying the bulldozer crew did not see Corrie.
The ruling sparked an angry reaction from the Corrie family, with Rachel's mother, Cindy Corrie, accusing the Israeli authorities of a cover-up.
"The state has worked extremely hard to make sure that the full truth about what happened to my daughter is not exposed and that those responsible for the killing are not held accountable," she told reporters after the hearing.
A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Corrie's death "an unnecessary tragedy," but said the court ruled in accordance with the evidence that "the Israeli side was not responsible, and on the contrary, if there was irresponsible behaviour -- it was by the activists."
He also rejected the criticism leveled by Corrie's family against the Israeli legal system.
"Though I understand their pain, their criticisms of the Israeli justice system are not objective and are not factual," he said. "In Israel the judiciary is fiercely independent, there are numerous cases where the judicial branch rules against the executive branch."