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IDF shoots 13 year old on the way to school

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Last update - 02:03 06/10/2004
IDF kills girl, 13, on her way to school
By Amos Harel and Arnon Regular

Israeli soldiers shot dead a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday.

Five other Palestinians were killed in the Strip in three separate incidents, bringing the Palestinian death toll to at least 77 since the start of Operation Days of Penitence a week ago.

Military sources admitted yesterday that the killing of Iman Alhamas was a mistake. They said the case was being investigated and confirmed the possibility that she had been shot from several posts.

The girl was shot dead on her way to school, accompanied by two classmates. She was wearing her school uniform and carrying her book bag, which military sources said was suspected of containing explosives. Medical sources in Gaza said the girl was hit by 20 bullets.

After Israel Defense Forces troops fired a warning shot, the girl dropped her bag and tried to run away. The troops then shot her dead. She was about 400 meters from the school. The troops did not find any explosives or weapons in her schoolbag.

At the same time, Palestinian militants opened fire at the IDF post from the neighboring Rafah area.

"When the soldiers fired in the air, the girl threw her bag and tried to flee," said H., a mechanic of Tel Sultan who witnessed the shooting. "The bullets hit the bag and then the girl."

H. said the child was about 50 meters from the military posts when the soldiers started shooting in the air. "She started running and the soldiers started firing hails of bullets at her. She was hit in the arm and fell on the ground, but they went on shooting," he said.

H., who called an ambulance, said the girl was shot from several posts, not only from the one nearest to her.

Her body was left on the ground for almost two hours, until the IDF enabled Palestinian medical teams to approach her.

"The incident occurred in a place forbidden to Palestinians," military sources said. The soldiers said this was not the usual way to school and that her being near the post was not accidental, and she was probably sent by terrorists to check the soldiers' alertness.

The sources said the soldiers were shooting at an adult woman in a sterile area, where anyone who enters is doomed. "In any case, the army is checking why the soldiers fired at the child and why so many bullets were fired," they said.

However, Palestinian sources said this was Iman's and her schoolmates' usual route to school.

The distance between the girl and soldiers was so great that even if she had carried explosives she in no way endangered their safety, military sources said.

Meanwhile, an Israel Air Force attack helicopter fired a missile at a car traveling in the Shati refugee camp near Gaza City yesterday evening, killing the Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, Bashir Al-Dabash, and his bodyguard, Ahmed Al-Ar'er.

The IDF said in a statement that it had targeted the vehicle, adding that Dabash, 38, was responsible for dozens of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers. He was directly responsible for the deaths of eight Israelis. The two men were also said to be involved in the production of weapons, including Qassam rockets.

Dabash's car was torn apart in the missile strike. His body was carried to the morgue by militants firing in the air and chanting for revenge.

"Islamic Jihad will not be broken by this martyrdom," said Khaled al-Batsh, a senior political leader in Gaza. "Islamic Jihad's armed wing will return this strike with tougher strikes against the Zionist entity."

Dabash headed Jihad's military wing, known as the Al-Quds Brigade.

His assassination was Israel's most high-profile since it killed the leader of the kindred Hamas group in April.

Dabash's killing could complicate international efforts to end the massive Israeli offensive into northern Gaza, in which three Israelis have also been killed.

A Hamas representative in Beirut said his organization would not stop firing rockets at Israeli towns as long at the IDF continues its offensive and the occupation of Palestinian areas.

In a later incident, an Israeli helicopter missile killed three Palestinian militants and wounded seven, six of them civilians, in the Jabalya refugee camp, witnesses and Palestinian security sources said.

The militants, members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, were preparing to attack IDF soldiers, according to witnesses and the militant group.

An army spokesman said Israeli forces, operating in Jabalya to root out militants firing rockets into nearby Israel, spotted a group planting bombs. "Before they could do so, a helicopter fired at them and hit two," he said.

IDF troops also shot dead a man south of the Gush Katif settlements. In addition, an Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades member was killed in an air force strike in the Jabalya refugee camp in north Gaza before dawn. Three others were wounded in the attack.

Israel fired a missile targeting a group of militants seen meeting in the camp. Israel did not comment on reports that the missile was fired by an unmanned drone.

In the West Bank, IDF troops yesterday killed Mussa Jibril, a Hamas activist who had been involved in shooting and bombing attacks.

The IDF said Jibril, who was found with a Kalashnikov rifle, had opened fire on soldiers during an arrest operation and was killed by return fire. Two other Palestinians accompanying him were arrested.

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