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Israeli soldier who shot 13 yr old girl acquitted { November 15 2005 }

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005 Last updated 12:26 p.m. PT
Israeli soldier acquitted in girl's death


JERUSALEM -- An Israeli military court Tuesday acquitted an army captain who was charged with intentionally killing a teenage Palestinian girl in the Gaza Strip last year, saying she was already dead when he shot her.

The defendant maintained throughout that he did not identify the figure on the ground as a child. He said he had come under fire from Palestinian gunmen at least 300 yards away and he shot at the ground to deter the fire.

The court cleared the officer of charges of illegal use of a firearm, obstruction of justice, exceeding his authority and conduct unbecoming a company commander, the army said.

"I'm happy and satisfied that the truth has come to light," the officer, identified as "Capt. R," told reporters outside the courtroom in southern Israel. "I hope the army will understand its failure, the failure was not on my part."

Soldiers shot 13-year-old Iyman Hams as she approached a military observation post near the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza on Oct. 5, 2004. The soldiers said they thought she was planting a bomb. The girl's family said she was on her way to school.

Then, according to an army indictment, the officer approached the girl's body and fired two more shots - an illegal practice called "verifying the kill." Palestinian doctors said that at least 15 bullets hit the girl.

The girl's family decried the ruling.

"We were not expecting much from this court," her uncle, Mohammed Hams, told The Associated Press. "It is another indication how cheap the life of an innocent girl is to an Israeli judge. I am sure that God will avenge us, because only God will bring down justice upon the Israeli courts."

The court criticized the way the military police handled their investigation and added that disgruntled soldiers had fabricated testimony against the captain in an attempt to have him removed from the company.

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