HAIFA, Israel — A key witness in a civil case brought by the family of US activist Rachel Corrie, killed by an Israeli bulldozer during a demonstration in Gaza, said on Sunday that she had caused her own death.
Retired Colonel Pinhas Zuaretz, a former brigade commander in Gaza, said a military police investigation into the March 2003 incident found no fault with the behaviour of the bulldozer driver or the officers supervising him.
"Their operational behaviour was correct," he told the Haifa courtroom, as Corrie's parents Craig and Cindy listened intently through interpreters.
He said the massive, armoured D9 bulldozer was demolishing buildings from which shots had been fired at Israeli soldiers in a highly dangerous zone near the Gaza-Egypt border.
Zuaretz was giving evidence on the last day of hearings in the action brought by the Corries, who are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Israeli military investigation.
They are suing the state of Israel and the defence ministry for one dollar plus costs.
The retired colonel said the bulldozer operator did not see Corrie because she was behind a pile of rubble, and that a concrete pillar among the debris had struck and killed her.
"She was killed in an accident caused by her own negligence," he said. "Anyone who runs toward the fire either has very deep ideology or is stupid."
Activists who witnessed the 23-year-old's death said she and others were acting as human shields to prevent a house demolition in the Gaza border town of Rafah for more than two hours and were clearly visible to the bulldozer driver.
Cindy Corrie told AFP that the military investigation was wound up despite inconsistencies in witness testimony.
"The two people inside the bulldozer disagree about where her body was placed after the incident happened," she said. "That was never reconciled yet they closed their investigation and found no fault."
Craig Corrie said that former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had promised then US president George W. Bush "a thorough, credible and transparent investigation."
"It's still the opinion of our government as well as our family that that has never happened," he said. "I think this trial has brought forward a number of cases where we can show explicitly how poor that investigation was."
Judge Oded Gershon said he would deliver his verdict next April.