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BTselem Report Whitewash The Office of the Judge Advocate

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BTselem Report Whitewash The Office of the Judge Advocate

    B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for

    Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

To: Colonel Einat Ron 16.07.01

    Chief Military Prosecutor Ref: 9563

    Office of the Judge Advocate

    Hakirya

    Tel Aviv

    Re: The circumstances surrounding the killing of eleven-year-old Khalil al-Mughrabi

     by IDF soldiers in Rafah on 7 July 2001

    Attached to this letter are testimonies given to B’Tselem’s researcher regarding the killing of eleven-year-old Khalil al-Mughrabi and the wounding of two of his friends by IDF gunfire in Yubneh Refugee Camp in Rafah, near the Egyptian-Israeli border on 7 July 2001.

    These testimonies indicate that the deceased was shot and killed while playing with his friends. The deceased was near an IDF post situated on the Egyptian-Israeli border, near Yubneh Refugee Camp and posed no danger to the soldiers at the post.

    I request that you inform me what action has been taken thus far by the Judge Advocate’s Office to prosecute the parties responsible for this child’s senseless death. If no action has

    been taken, I request that you order an investigation of the parties involved in this terrible incident.

Sincerely,

s/

Ronen Shnayderman

    B’Tselem.

    The Circumstances Surrounding the Death of eleven-year-old Khalil al-

    Mughrabi in Rafah on 7 July, 2001.

    Testimony of Suleiman Muhammad Salameh al-Akhras, born in 1988, elementary school

    pupil, resident of Rafah

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

    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.

     The Circumstances Surrounding the Death of eleven-year-old Khalil al-

    Mughrabi in Rafah on 7 July, 2001.

    Testimony of Muhammad Salah Hussein al-Akhras, born in 1987,

    elementary school student, resident of Rafah

    The testimony was given to Nabil Mukhairez on 8 July, 2001

    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 spreading 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.

    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.

B’Tselem researcher Nabil Mukhairez adds:

    The deceased, who was playing soccer with about ten children, was shot by a bullet that entered the top of his head and came out the bottom. The bullet was shot from the Tel Zu’arub tower, about one kilometer away from the deceased. As a result of the injury, his head shattered and parts of it fell to the ground. There was no rioting in the area. There were only children playing.

In addition, two children were wounded:

    1. Ibrahim Kamal Abu Susin, 10, was struck in the abdomen by a bullet. His intestines and liver were injured, and he is in critical condition at Nasser Hospital.

    2. Suleiman Turki Abu Rijal, 12, was struck in the left thigh by a bullet, which led to his left testicle being amputated.

- Sketch attached.

    Appendix A

    - Restricted

    Regional Brigade 6643

    Operations Department

    11 July 01

    To: Battalion 424,229, 585 - Battalion Commander, Operations Officer

    For the information of: Regional brigade 6643 - Brigade Commander, Operations Officer.

    Division 643 - Commander, Operations Department Officer

    Re: De-briefing Regarding to Warning Shots on the "Philadelphi" Route

1. General:

    One. On Saturday 7 July 2001, an armored personnel carrier patrol mission was

    carried out between opening 16a and 18, a crowd of children gathered, there was

    stone and grenade throwing at the armored personnel carriers.

    Two. According to Palestinian reports, an eleven-year-old boy was killed and two

    were injured by our forces' fire.

    Three. On 9 July 2001 a de-briefing was conducted by the battalion commander with

    the participation of the Girit Platoon Commander, Platoon Commander 5, Sergeant 5,

    the tank platoon commander and the operations officer.

    Four. On 10 July 2001 a brigade commander de-briefing was held.

2. Facts:

    One. On Saturday, 7 July 2001, an armored personnel carrier patrol mission was

    carried out on the "Philadelphi" route in order to prevent hostile terrorist action on the

    route and to prevent weapons smuggling.

    Two. At 06:00 A.M. a route opening on "Philadelphi" was carried out by two

    armored personnel carriers [illegible in original]

    Three. [illegible in original] between RP 16a and 18.

    Four. Just before 12:00 dozens of children started to gather around the opening at

    18. Stones were thrown at the armored personnel carriers from the mound and the

    ditch.

    Five. A fragmentation grenade was thrown at the force.

    Six. The children tried to cross "Philadelphi" route and reached "Dakar" route.

    The force inside the armored personnel carrier fired warning shots - five bullets, on

    the "Dakar" route in front of the children.

    Seven. In addition, the force fired five bullets at the protective wall - cement blocks

    around RP 18 - in order to prevent the children from entering the ditch and throwing

    stones from it.

    Eight. At 13:00 the forces on the ground switched and Platoon Commander 5

    situated himself on the lookout at the opening on RP 18 from the north. Nine. At 13:30 approximately, grenade and stone throwing at the armored

    personnel carrier increased. Five grenades were thrown at the personnel carrier. Ten. The platoon commander fired warning shots at the children who were

    attempting to cross the "Dakar" route

    Eleven. The platoon commander fired rubber [bullets] at a group of children who

    were on the battery and tried to enter the ditch. The shots fired were blanks. Twelve. During the firing of rubber [bullets], the platoon commander detected that

    one of the children was hit in the head. The child held his head and ran. After a few

    minutes he returned to the demonstration.

    Thirteen. In addition, a number of bullets were shot from a machine gun toward the

    protective wall, which is the mound and the concrete wall.

    Fourteen. The force threw a percussion grenade into the ditch.

    Fifteen. While firing the warning shots, two grenades were thrown at the force. One

    fell near the armored personnel carrier and one fell into the ditch. Sixteen. The platoon commander entered the opening at 18 with the armored

    personnel carrier in order to lookout onto the ditch and see if any of the children had

    been struck by the grenade. The platoon commander did not detect that anyone was

    hit.

    Seventeen. At approximately 19:00 the platoon commander left with the armored

    personnel carrier to go back to Girit.

    Eighteen. When the force moved out, dozens of children and adults entered the "Dakar"

    route, put down objects and barbed wire. In addition, sacks coming in from the

    Egyptian side were detected.

    Nineteen. The company commander directed the tank to fire warning shots. The tank

    fired a 0.5 machine gun three times: at RP 17, north of RP 17 and at the T at the

    opening at 18. The shots were fired within the sector, three bullets each time, a total

    of twelve 0.5 bullets - all west of the concrete wall.

    Twenty. Over the course of the incident no ambulance arriving at the area was

    detected, nor evacuation of a child by people at the place. As well, there was no

    apparent change in behavior during the disturbances.

    3. Mistakes.

    One. The armored personnel carriers' activity was too static and not

    sufficiently mobile.

    Two. The children got within too close a range from the armored

    personnel carriers.

    Three. The tank should not have been used to fire warning shots during

    the day. The company commander should have considered that the tank

    was exposed to the Egyptians during the shooting.

    Four. The use of rubber was not right. The risk resulting from these

    shots was not considered.

    Five. It was possible to return the armored vehicles to 18 instead of

    firing warning shots from the tank.

    4. Failures:

    One. A Roger (22 caliber anti-riot rifle) that was supposed to arrive for

    the mission, did not arrive.

    Two. The platoon commander did not transmit open-fire regulations

    dealing specifically with firing rubber (The platoon commander received

    training for firing rubber and knows how to use it. The platoon

    commander is aware of the 70-meter minimum range.)

    Three. Rubber shots were fired using blanks and not by rifle attachments.

5. Lessons and Conclusions:

    One. Recently there has been an increase in disturbances in which children

    participate.

    Two. Most of the disturbances take place at RP 18 because the Palestinians

    understand that we do not have effective weapons for that range. Three. There is an increased use of children for the purposes of laying explosive

    devices, dummy devices and obstacles on the route.

    Four. Daily patrols on RP 18 decreases hostile terrorist activity and disturbances on

    the route, but does not completely prevent them.

    Five. This mission creates a high level of friction between the force and the

    children - which poses difficult dilemmas for the troops on the ground.

    Six. It is necessary to ensure that the forces are mobile, in order to decrease the

    level of friction.

    Seven. From the de-briefing , it is not possible to determine whether a child was

    killed from our forces' fire.

    Eight. The mission is very complex and there are many difficulties in carrying it out,

    since the target is to keep "Philadelphi" route sterile, yet not fire shots at children. Nine. The fact that the children came within ten meters of the armored personnel

    carrier is a mistake. Such events should be avoided, even if it means that the

    personnel carrier is driven backwards in order to avoid a high level of friction. Ten. The rubber fired by the platoon commander does not deviate from the open-

    fire directives and regulations. However, one should realize that shooting is at least

    from forty meters range and is aimed at the legs. Improvised firing blanks by officers

    is a flaw and as a rule, firing rubber bullets, which are, in some instances deadly,

    should be avoided.

    Eleven. The Roger a Roger was ordered for the company, but it had not arrived and

    the company went out on its mission without it, which prevented the force from

    shooting accurately and safely.

    Twelve. It is the company commander's responsibility to hold a commander

    conference and clarify the Open-Fire Regulations.

    Thirteen. There is no authorization for firing rubber, just a Roger.

    Fourteen. There is no doubt that Palestinians are using children for smuggling and

    laying devices, but shooting at children should be absolutely avoided.

6. Summary and Assessment

    One. It is impossible to unequivocally determine that the child was killed by our

    forces' gunfire:

    1. No ambulances were detected coming into the area of the events

    throughout the day.

    2. Nobody hurt was detected.

    3. There was no escalation and commotion that could have occurred as

    a result of a death during the events.

7. Respectfully,

    Holi Moshe, Major,

    Operations Department Officer,

    Division 643

    Appendix B

    - Restricted -

    Regional Brigade 6643

    Operations Department

    14 July 01

    To: Battalion 424 - Battalion Commander, Operations Officer

    For the Information of: Regional Brigade 6643 - Brigade Commander, Brigade Sub-

    Commander, War Room Officer; Division 643 - Operations Department Officer, Operations

    Officer

    Re: Division Commander de-briefing relating to warning

     shots at RP 18 "Philadelphi", 7 July 2001

    1. On Thursday, 12 July 2001, the above de-briefing was conducted by the division

    commander with the participation of the southern division deputy-commander, battalion

    424 commander and operations officer.

    2. Below is the division commander's summary:

    One. The background for the de-briefing is a press report about the killing of a

    child and the wounding of two others in the Termit area, while they were at home.

    The report refers to an injury from a 0.5 bullet.

    Two. Mistakes:

    1. People should not be allowed to get within less then 50 meters from

    the vehicles either by retreating or by operating a Roger (22 caliber anti-riot

    rifle)

    2. The tank fire is a flaw.

    Three. Open-fire guidelines for "Philadelphi"

    1. Ensure the shots do not hit - i.e. shooting toward a protective wall,

    west of the wall, the mound, and/or at the concrete wall, as far away as possible

    from people (do not set 50 meters)

    2. Shots should be fired from a precisely accurate weapon - Barret (50

    caliber sniper rifle), a machine gun, a 0.5 parallel mounted on a canon, after

    setting the weapon's sights.

    3. Warning shots are fired during the day only, authorized by the

    company commander or deputy-commander only.

    Four. The patrol on "Philadelphi" should be constantly moving. Ensure it is moving

    and not static.

    Five. It is not possible to determine that the children were hurt by our forces'

    gunfire.

    Moshe Holi, Major

    Operations Department Officer,

    Division 643

Appendix C

    Restricted

    Office of the Judge Advocate General

    Land Forces/Southern Command

    Tel: 0307-9351/4

    Fax: 0307-9353

    29 August 2001

JAO 9605 The Judge Advocate General

    JAO 9605 Chief Military Prosecutor

    H - 2025

    Re: The circumstances of the death of Khalil al-Mughrabi

    in Rafah on 7 July 2001

    [references]

    1. In addition to the letters of the Chief Military Prosecutor referred to above, we received for our review newspaper articles and a complaint from B'Tselem which indicate that on 7 July 2001, during a disturbance, which included stone and grenade throwing at IDF forces, the child Khalil al-Mughrabi was shot and killed.

    According to the Palestinians, IDF soldiers used heavy machine guns. Army officials

    quoted in the papers denied that allegation.

    B'Tselem's letter indicates that the child was not involved in violent events, but was

    playing nearby with his friends when he was shot and killed.

    2. Recently, we received de-briefings with regards to the said incident. These de-briefings indicate that during that day there were severe disturbances and rioting at the place. According to the de-briefings, “warning shots” and rubber bullets were fired in the direction of groups of rioters composed of dozens of children who were attempting to approach an IDF force at the place and threw stones and several fragmentation grenades at the force.

    These details do not conform with B'Tselem’s version, according to which, at the said

    time, there were no violent incidents in the place, and the children who had been hit were

    playing ball games and not participating in any kind of disturbance.

    3. In light of the circumstances of a violent disturbance and the combat nature of the events, as described in the de-briefings, I do not think that there is cause to open a Military Police investigation.

    4. However, I have found it appropriate to point to the following problematic issues:

    (1st) It appears that tank fire was used as warning shots, which the

    regulations prohibit. The de-briefing itself specifies that the tank

    fire was a mistake (for reasons unrelated to the regulations). There

    was no mention of what measures, if any, were taken with regards

    to this shooting.

    (2nd) The de-briefings mention that warning shots were fired toward the

    children. The regulations do stipulate that no warning shots should

    be fired to get children away from restricted areas on roadsides

    (section 9 of the Ahuda ?? Regulation). However, in light of the

    nature of the disturbance (stones and a number of grenades), live

    ammunition and warning shots could be fired and three was

    nothing wrong in firing the warning shots in such circumstances.

    (3rd) It appears that the IDF response given to the press, claiming that

    there was no use of heavy weapons, was wrong.

    5. Therefore, I do not recommend, as noted above, a Military Police investigation into the matter. However, it appears that it is necessary to check which disciplinary action has been taken against those responsible for using the tank in the incident. In the event that no such action has been taken, it should be ordered.

    6. For your instruction.

    Baruch Y. Mani, Lt. Colonel

    Judge Advocate, Southern Command

    Appendix D

    The circumstances of the death of Khalil al-Mughrabi, 11, and the wounding of two

    children near the Egyptian border on 7 July 2001

    B'Tselem’s Complaint (attached, testimonies of two children)

    1. On 7 July 2001, a group of twenty to thirty children were playing soccer on a field

    near the border, close to Yubneh Refugee Camp.

    2. At about 17:00, a tank passes by them from east to west and pays no attention to them.

    3. Fifteen minutes before they finished their game, the tank proceeds from Salah a-Din

    gate westward toward the military tower at Tel Zu’arub.

    4. At 19:10 the children sit down to rest: some alongside the sand piles near the border,

    some on top of them (among these, Khalil, the boy who was killed).

    5. Suddenly, gunfire from the direction of the military tower, a kilometer away from the

    children: a quiet bullet hits Khalil, his head shattered and he fell from the top of the pile.

    Immediately afterward the sound of loud shots when running northward, two children

    were hit.

    6. A Mercedes public-transport vehicle picked Khalil up, and an ambulance picked up

    the two wounded.

    Operations de-briefing.

    1. An armored personnel carrier was patrolling reporting points (RP) 16a and 18, on the

    border.

    2. At 12:00, dozens of children gathered at RP 18. The chronology of events:

    a. 12:00, stone throwing. One fragmentation grenade is thrown at the troops. Children

    cross the "Philadelphi" route and reach the "Dakar" route (parallel to "Philadelphi").

    Response: warning shots are fired on the "Dakar" route, in front of the children + five

    bullets toward the concrete blocks at RP 18.

    b. 13:00 Replacement of troops platoon commander 5 situates himself on the lookout

    north of RP 18.

    c. 13:30, increased stone throwing + 5 grenades thrown at the armored personnel carrier.

    Response: platoon commander fires warning shots + rubber bullets (hits, apparently

    lightly, a child who continues to run and demonstrate) + machine gun fire toward a

    battery and a concrete wall + percussion grenade into the ditch. Two grenades are

    thrown at the force.

    Four. 19:00, the platoon commander and the armored personnel carrier return

    westward to Girit. Dozens of children and adults enter the "Dakar" route, put down

    objects and barbed wire + bags coming from the Egyptian side were detected.

    Response: the platoon commander instructs the tank to fire warning shots not

    toward the children themselves. A 0.5 machine gun was fired in three directions: RP

    17, north of RP 17 toward the T in the opening at RP 18. No detection of children

    being hurt.

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