23-year-old Rachel Corrie, an American
peace activist and college student from Olympia, Washington, was killed
yesterday afternoon by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Southern Gaza
Strip town of Rafah. Rachel Corrie and eight of her colleagues from the
International Solidarity Movement (ISM), five Americans and three British,
were trying to stop the Israeli military from bulldozing a number of houses
in the Salaam neighborhood of Rafah.
According to initial eyewitness reports, at around 16:45, Rachel Corrie was standing in front of a house waving at the driver to stop. She was wearing a bright orange jacket and communicating with the driver through a megaphone. The rest of the ISM group was standing approximately 15-20 meters away from her and were witnesses to the incident. From eyewitness reports it appears that Rachel walked up the small pile of earth that had been created as the bulldozer advanced towards her. As the bulldozer did not stop she turned around and as she moved to get away she fell over and was covered by earth as the bulldozer continued to move forward. The bulldozer stopped after a few meters, then raised its plow and reversed. At this point Rachel again became visible to her colleagues, who had been screaming, shouting and gesturing at the driver to stop the bulldozer. Eyewitnesses reported that the Israeli military did not offer assistance. A Palestinian ambulance arrived shortly after and took Rachel to the Najar Hospital in Rafah where she was pronounced dead.
Rachel Corrie was the first international peace activist to be killed whilst protesting against an Israeli military house demolition operation. However, Rachel's death is only one of the latest killings by the Israeli military of unarmed civilians. During the Intifada, at least 2000 Palestinian have been killed by the Israeli military or settlers. The frequency of Israeli military house demolition operations and the force used has increased significantly in recent months. At least 6 Palestinian civilians, including 3 women, have been killed during house demolition operations since November 2002 in the Gaza Strip. Between the 29th of September 2000 and the 5th of March 2003 a total of 995 houses in the Gaza Strip have been totally demolished by the Israeli military; 225 of these were destroyed in 2003. In November 2001 the UN Committee Against Torture concluded that the Israeli military policy of house demolition may constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in violation of international human rights law. PCHR has repeatedly submitted legal complaints regarding the Israeli military policy of house demolitions and killings of Palestinians during such operations.
PCHR is appalled by the apparent willful killing of Rachel Corrie and calls upon the international community to ensure that those responsible for wilfull killings and other grave breaches, including extensive destruction to civilian property carried out unlawfully and wantonly, be brought to justice in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.