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Israelis Exonerated in Activist's Death/Rachel Corrie, 23, of Olympia, Wash./crushed to death by an army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip/AP/June 26
Israelis Exonerated in Activist's Death
By PETER ENAV
Associated Press Writer
June 26, 2003, 10:53 PM EDT
JERUSALEM -- Israel's military prosecutor has exonerated Israeli soldiers in the death of an American peace activist, who was crushed to death by an army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip, the army said Thursday.
Rachel Corrie, 23, of Olympia, Wash., died March 16 trying to block the demolition of the house of a doctor in the Rafah refugee camp by standing in front of the bulldozer. The army said the home was being destroyed in an effort to block arms smuggling.
Israel and the Palestinians have been locked in a bloody 33-month conflict. The Rafah camp, on the Egyptian border, has been one of the flashpoints.
Members of her pro-Palestinian group, International Solidarity Movement, claimed that Corrie was visible to the bulldozer driver and that her death was malicious.
"When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside, (Rachel) climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being gathered in front of it ... to look directly at the driver, who kept on advancing," the group said in a statement.
Announcing the ruling, the army said the driver did not see her, claiming she was standing behind a mound of earth.
Military police investigating the Corrie case found that the soldiers operating the bulldozer had no intention of harming her, the army said in a statement.
"Rachel Corrie was injured as a result of earth and building material falling on her when she tried to climb on a pile of earth while work was being carried out by an armored Israel Defense Forces bulldozer," the statement said. "The crew of the armored bulldozer did not see Miss Corrie, who was standing behind a pile of earth, nor could they have seen or heard her."
International Solidarity Movement spokesman Ghassan Andoni said Thursday that he was not surprised by the army findings. "We have received so many negative signals from them," he said. "Their only concern is to protect their people and not arrive at the truth."
The Corrie family in Charlotte, N.C., was not available for comment on the army findings.
Over the past two months Israeli authorities have adopted an increasingly tough attitude toward pro-Palestinian foreign activists, trying to deport as many as possible.
The International Solidarity Movement has acknowledged that two Britons visited its members before the Britons carried out an April 30 suicide bombing at a bar in Tel Aviv, killing three Israelis.