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DOC - Whitewash The Office of the Judge Advocate Generals

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DOC - Whitewash The Office of the Judge Advocate Generals

     B’Tselem

     ).ר.ע( םיחטשב םדאה תויוכזל ילארשיה עדימה זכרמ

     The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

    Whitewash

    The Office of the Judge Advocate General’s Examination of the

    Death of Khalil al-Mughrabi, 11, on 7 July 2001

Written by Yael Stein

    Fieldwork by Nabil Mukhairez

    Data coordination by Ronen Shnayderman

    Translation by Maya Johnston, Zvi Shulman

     ,(,,666 סקפ ,)42( ,(933,, ןופלט ,,9,24 םילשורי ,תויפלת ,) המוק( 8 היישעתה בוחרth 8 Hata’asiya St. (4 Floor), Talpiot, Jerusalem 93420, Tel. (02) 6735599, Fax (02) 6749111

     mail@btselem.org www.btselem.org

    Introduction

    On Saturday, 7 July 2001, Khalil al-Mughrabi, 11, was killed in Rafah. Two other children,

    Ibrahim Abu Susin, 10, and Suleiman Abu Rijal, 12, were wounded.

In his response to the incident, the IDF Spokesperson stated that “dozens of Palestinians

    rioted near Rafah and endangered soldiers’ lives… The soldiers acted with restraint and control and dispersed the rioters by using means for dispersing demonstrations and by live 1gunfire into an open area distant from the rioters. The testimonies given to B’Tselem and

    the findings from the army’s de-briefings contradict this version of the events.

    B’Tselem contacted the Chief Military Prosecutor, Col. Einat Ron, to determine which measures were taken against those involved in the incident. In the event that the army took no such measures, B’Tselem requested that the Military Police investigations unit open an investigation. On 8 November 2001, B’Tselem received the army’s response, which stated that the soldiers acted according to the regulations and, therefore, it was unnecessary to initiate an investigation. The de-briefings file was attached to the army’s response, apparently in error. The file included the operations de-briefings and the opinions of the Southern Command’s Judge Advocate and of the Chief Military Prosecutor.

    This report analyzes the army’s inquiry into the events, based on the documents provided to B’Tselem. The report points out the primary problems arising from the inquiry and its results. Although the documents raise numerous other questions regarding the actions of IDF soldiers serving along the border, this report focuses on the shooting of the three children. The documents are presented in their entirety as an appendix to the report.

    The incident: one child killed, two children wounded

    According to testimonies given to B’Tselem, on 7 July 2001, some twenty to thirty children

    aged ten to thirteen were playing in the Yubneh Refugee Camp, in Rafah, located near the Egyptian border. Around 5:00 P.M., the children saw a tank travelling west along the border fence, toward the Tel Zu’arub encampment. The encampment has a tower used by the army as

    an observation post. At about 5:30, Khalil al-Mughrabi, 11, came to the site with his friend

    Suleiman al-Akhras, 13. They had a ball with them and started to play soccer.

    Around 6:45 P.M., the children finished playing. Some of them sat down next to mounds of sand near the border fence. Others sat on the top of the mounds. Khalil and Suleiman sat on the mounds. At 7:10 P.M. or so, Khalil was shot in the head. According to the children, the shots came from the observation tower, about one kilometer from where the children were located. The firing continued, striking two other children:

    - Ibrahim Kamel Abu Susin, 10, was hit in the abdomen, the bullet striking his intestines and liver

- Suleiman Turki Abu Rijal, 12, was struck in the left leg.

     1 Ha’aretz, 8 July 2001.

Testimony of Suleiman Muhammad Salameh al-Akhras, 13, elementary school pupil, 2resident of Rafah

    Even before the intifada, I used to play soccer with my friends around Yubneh Refugee Camp, in Rafah, close to the Egyptian border. We used to play there because there aren’t any other soccer fields in the city, and because the ground is flat and made of concrete, so it’s good for

    playing.

    On Saturday [7 July], I was playing there with twenty or thirty other children between the ages of ten and thirteen. They are all friends from the neighborhood and from school. We divided into a few teams of six and played a few games in order to give all the children a chance to play. About fifteen minutes before we finished playing, an Israeli tank drove along the border. It arrived from Salah a-Din gate and drove west toward the Tel Zu’arub post,

    where there is a very tall military tower that overlooks the whole area. After we finished playing, we sat down to rest. Some of us sat alongside the sand piles that are near the border fence. Others sat on the top the piles. While we were resting, the soldiers in the tower suddenly shot a bullet. We didn’t hear it until it entered Khalil Ibrahim Muhammad al-

    Mughrabi’s head. Khalil, who was sitting on top of one of the piles, fell down immediately. His head burst and parts of it flew toward the children who were near him.

    Then the soldiers opened intense fire from the tower. This time, the shooting was very loud. It sounded different from the bullet that hit Khalil. When we ran north, toward the houses in the

    refugee camp, two more of my schoolmates were hit. Ibrahim Abu Susin was hit in the

    stomach and his intestines came out. Suleiman Abu Rijal was hit in the thigh. A number of civilians rushed to the place immediately and evacuated the deceased in a Mercedes public-

    transport vehicle. An ambulance, which arrived immediately after, evacuated the two

    wounded to the hospital.

    The terrible sight that I saw in this incident shocked me so much that I couldn’t speak for six hours.

Testimony of Muhammad Salah Hussein al-Akhras, 14, elementary school pupil, 3resident of Rafah

    On the evening of Saturday [7 July], I was playing with about thirty more children at a soccer field near the border, in Yubneh Refugee Camp. The game started after the afternoon prayer, i.e. around 5:00 P.M. After a while, a tank drove along the border. It came from the east and drove west, toward Tel Zu’arub and the military tower there. The tank passed by quietly without shooting at us. After we finished playing, we lay on the ground to rest. Some of us sat on the piles of sand near the border. Around 7:10 P.M., I stood up and told the children to leave the place. I was two meters away from Khalil al-Mughrabi. Then I heard a faint sound and saw Khalil’s brain flying out of his head and splattering all over my face and clothes. We started running away from the place. While we were running, intensive fire from the tower began. That gunfire resulted in two more children being hit. One of them was my neighbor, Ibrahim Abu Susin. He was hit in the stomach and his intestines came out. The other, Suleiman Abu Zeidan, was hit in the left thigh. Civilians who were there evacuated the deceased and the wounded to the hospital.

     2 The testimony was given to Nabil Mukhairez on 8 July 2001. 3 The testimony was given to Nabil Mukhairez on 8 July 2001

    I spent the entire night after that dreaming about the incident, and about Khalil’s brain flying in the air and splattering on my body. The morning after, I went to the sheik in al-Hoda mosque and told him the story. He started reading from the Koran and told me I had to pray and read the Koran all the time.

    The operations de-briefings: the soldiers violated the regulations, no measures to be taken

    Two days after the incident, on 9 July 2001, the battalion commander conducted a de-briefing of the incident. One day later, the brigade commander conducted his de-briefing, and on 12 July, the division commander also conducted a de-briefing. The documents indicate that the de-briefings dealt primarily with operational aspects and with the soldiers involvement in coping with the events that took place along the border on 7 July. The injuries sustained by the three children receive marginal attention.

    The de-briefings indicate that, on 7 July, starting around noon, children threw stones and fragmentation grenades at the soldiers. Several times during the day, the soldiers fired 4warning shots. The soldiers also