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Court holds state responsible for shooting of Palestinian girl

17 August 2010 | Haaretz

A Jerusalem court on Monday held the state responsible for killing killing a 10-year-old Palestinian girl in January 2007.

In a civil suit, the court ruled that border guards had either been negligent or disobeyed orders in shooting Abir Aramin with a rubber bullet, calling the incident ‘totally unjustifiable’.

The judge ruled ordered the government to pay damages to the girl’s family, with the exact amount to be determined later.

Aramin was killed while walking home from school in the West Bank village of Anata with her sister and two of her friends. They had just left a shop where they had bought sweets when she was hit in the head by a rubber bullet.

She was taken to Mukassed Hospital in Jerusalem, where she was pronounced dead.

Police opened a criminal investigation but later decided against indicting the border guards who opened fire.

Aramin’s family and the human rights organization Yesh Din appealed the decision in the High Court. But judges there ruled that since it was possible the girl was killed by a rock thrown by rioters, there was no basis for a criminal trial.

In Monday’s civil ruling, Judge Orit Efal-Gabai dismissed the possibility that Aramin had been struck by an errant stone, determining gunfire as the cause of death.

“There is no debate over the conclusion that Abir was injured by a rubber bullet shot by border guards, which in turn leads to the conclusion that the shooting of Abir occurred out of negligence, or in violation of the rules of engagement,” Efal-Gabai said.

“We are not talking about injury by shots fired at a crowd of rioters and rock-throwers, near which a little girl just happened to be standing,”she said.

“Abir and her friends were walking down a street where there were no rock-throwers, therefore there was no reason to shoot in their direction. It is clear that Abir’s death, caused by a rubber bullet shot by border guards, was due to negligence by the defendant.”

Aramin’s father is one of the founders of Combatants for Peace, a group of former Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Palestinian gunmen that tour schools to foster coexistence.