Iman Darweesh Al Hams

Iman Darweesh Al Hams

Infobox Person
name = Iyman Hams

image_size = 100px
caption =
birth_date = 1991
birth_place = Gaza Strip
death_date = 5 October 2004
death_place = Gaza Strip
occupation =
parents =

Iman Darweesh Al Hams (Arabic: _ar. ايمان درويش الهمص, also 'Iyman'), (1991 - 5 October 2004) was a 13-year-old Palestinian girl killed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fire near a military observation post in a "no-man's" zone near the Philadelphi Route on 5 October 2004, in Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF commander of the soldiers which shot her was accused by his comrades of using automatic fire into the girl's body as she lay wounded on the ground, a subject which was brought into investigation.cite web|title=Israeli soldier indicted in girl's death: Officer repeatedly shot the wounded teenager|author=Associated Press|publisher=MSNBC|date=22 November 2007|accessdate=2007-11-30|url=] Ultimately however, no one was held responsible for her as the soldier was cleared of these charges after one of the prosecution's witnesses admitted that he had not witnessed the shooting.

Human rights groups cite her death as one of several incidents which illustrate a "culture of impunity" in the IDF.cite web|title=Israeli troops' killing of Palestinians sparks soul-searching|author=Ravi Nessman|publisher=Deseret News (Salt Lake City)|url=]

Overview of the incident

Soldiers said they opened fire on the girl because they initially thought she was planting a bomb. After she was hit, soldiers claimed the unit's commanding officer went up to her and kept on shooting her, cite web|title=Israel ends deadly Gaza offensive|author=Associated Press|publisher=CTV|date=15 October 2004|accessdate=2007-11-29|url=] despite their pleas to stop.cite web|title=Israeli Suspended After Girl Shot|date=13 October 2004|accessdate=2007-11-29|url=] No explosives or weapons were found on the girl's body.cite web|title=Gaza girl death officer acquitted|publisher=BBC|date=15 November 2005|url=] A search of her bag revealed that it was filled with textbooks.cite web|title=Confirmed kill' case: Full acquittal|author=Hanan Greenberg||date=15 November 2005|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=,7340,L-3169693,00.html]

Palestinian witnesses

According to Umar Abu Khalifa, 25, "Israeli soldiers stormed the area, the girl left the bag and tried to run. Bullets hit the (girl's) bag and then soldiers opened fire on the girl."cite web|title=Israeli troops probed for killing child|publisher=Al-Jazeera|date=13 October 2004|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=]

Palestinian witnesses reported that it was more than an hour before Israeli troops would allow medics to evacuate the body in an ambulance.cite web|title=Israeli probe Gaza girl shooting|publisher=BBC|date=11 October 2004|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=] At least fifteen bullets were found in the girl's body by Palestinian hospital officials.cite web|title=Israeli officer charged over slain Gaza girl|date=22 November 2004|accessdate=2007-11-29|url=]

Dr. Mohammed al-Hams, who inspected the child's body told the Guardian newspaper that:

"She has at least 17 bullets in several parts of the body, all along the chest, hands, arms, legs ... The bullets were large and shot from a close distance. The most serious injuries were to her head. She had three bullets in the head.

Ehab Hams, an older brother of the slain girl, expressed his distrust of Israeli military justice: "We demand the prosecution of Iman's killer (but) we do not trust the Israeli judicial system." He added, "My sister was an innocent little girl."

Israeli documentary and audio recording of internal communications

A documentary screened nationwide on Ilana Dayan's "Uvda" ("Fact") investigative program on Israel's Channel 2 aired an audio recording of the internal communications between soldiers at the post at the time of the incident.Cite news
last = Carmel
first = Asaf
title = Journalist Ilana Dayan, Channel 2 submit defense in Cpt. R. libel suit
work = Haaretz
accessdate = 2008-03-14
date = 2006-07-02
url =
] cite web|title=Israeli Army Under Fire After Killing Girl|author=Ben Lynfield|publisher=Christian Science Monitor|date=26 November 2004|accessdate=2007-12-02|url= ]

According to the audio recording, the soldiers of the Givati Brigade identified the victim as "a girl, about 10 years old," describing her as looking "scared to death". Another soldier is heard saying, "Our forces are attacking her", and a lookout says "One of the positions has taken her down." The Givati Brigade company commander, Captain R., is then heard saying "We operated on her. Yes, it seems she has been hit." He later states that he "verified" the killing, and clarifies his actions by stating that:

"This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over."cite web|title=Israeli officer: I was right to shoot 13-year old child|author=Chris McGreal|date=22 November 2004|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=,2763,1358173,00.html]

Israeli soldiers interviewed in the documentary, and whose anonymity was maintained, submitted that their commander had knowingly shot the girl in the head at close range and then emptied his magazine of bullets into her body to "confirm the kill." One of the soldiers said:

"We saw her from a distance of 70 meters. She was fired at ... from the outpost. She fled and was wounded."
The soldiers then explained how while Iman was lying, wounded or dead, about 70 m from the Israeli guard post, the commander fired two bullets at her head from close range. They also stated that the commander returned to her body again, put his weapon on the automatic setting, and emptied his entire magazine into her body, disregarding their objections over the walkie-talkie.

One of the soldiers said:

"We couldn't believe what he had done. Our hearts ached for her. Just a 13-year-old girl ... How do you spray a girl from close range? He was hot for a long time to take out terrorists and shot the girl to relieve pressure."


First internal investigation

On 11 October 2004, the BBC reported that Israel's top military prosecutor was investigating the army commander for repeatedly firing at the lifeless body of the young girl. The report stated that according to Haaretz newspaper, "confirming the kill" (i.e. shooting combatants at close range to make sure they are dead) goes against Israeli military regulations governing the rules of engagement. On 13 October 2004, CBS reported that the army had suspended the officer during the investigation. On 15 October 2004, it was reported that the officer was cleared of responsibility in the shooting.

The BBC reported that army officials had accepted the commander's claim that "he fired into the ground near the girl after coming under fire in a dangerous area," but that they did not explain why the officer shot into the ground rather than at the source of the fire.cite web|title=Gaza girl death officer cleared|publisher=BBC|date=15 October 2004|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=]

Excerpts from the army statement read:

"The investigation did not find that the company or the company commander had acted unethically ... The investigation concluded that the behaviour of the company commander from an ethical point of view does not warrant his removal from his position."

The officer was nevertheless temporarily suspended due to his poor relations with the soldiers under his command and operational failures. It was further noted that a decision on his career in the army would be given by the end of the week.

Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, the army chief of staff, said repeatedly that the officer had acted properly under the circumstances.

Under the pressure generated by the public revelations of the soldiers, Israeli military police launched a separate investigation.cite web|title=A schoolgirl riddled with bullets. And no one is to blame|author=Chris McGreal|date=21 October 2004|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=,2763,1332219,00.html]

econd internal investigation

On 18 November 2004, the Israeli army requested the family's permission to exhume Hams' body.cite web|title=Army wants to exhume body of Palestinian girl|author=Associated Press|publisher=The Sydney Morning Herald|date=19 November 2004|accessdate=2007-11-29|url=] The earlier accusations made by the soldiers against their commanding officer of engaging in the outlawed practice of "verifying the kill" had regained currency. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that it was not known whether the girl was already dead or had merely been wounded before being repeatedly shot again.

That same month, the army formally charged the officer with two counts of illegally using his weapon, and one count each of obstruction of justice, conduct unbecoming an officer and improper use of authority.

Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon conceded the first military investigation had been "a grave failure".cite web|title=A Girl's Chilling Death in Gaza|author=Molly Moore|date=29 November 2004|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=] The indictment against the officer alleged that the first investigation was the subject of an attempted coverup.

Military tribunal

After the commencement of the military tribunal, the al-Hams family and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice in January 2005 to request that the investigation be turned over to civilian authorities.cite web|title=Promoting Impunity: The Israeli Military's Failure to Investigate Wrongdoing|publisher=Human Rights Watch|date=June 2005; Vol. 17, No. 7|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=] The court declined the request in February 2005.

Referred to in public only as Lieutenant R., (or Captain R.)cite web|title=Israeli officer released after witness recants|author=Associated Press|publisher=Pittsburg-Tribune Review|date=7 February 2005|accessdate=2007-11-29|url=] the officer maintained that when he reached the girl's body, he came under fire from Palestinian militants at least convert|300|yd away and shot at the ground to deter the fire. In an interview with the Associated Press, an Israeli military official stated that a soldier in the observation tower claimed the officer's fire was aimed at the girl's body and could offer no explanation as to why the officer shot into the ground rather than at the source of the fire.

Lieutenant R. was released from custody in February 2005 after a witness who was to attest to his firing two shots into the girl's body after she had been felled, recanted his testimony. Though Lieutenant R., had admitted to firing two shots into the girl's body from close range to "verify the kill", he denied shooting several more times. His lawyers, Yoav Meni and Elad Eisenberg, said the practice of "verifying the kill" was used regularly by the IDF to eliminate immediate threats. The Givati Brigade infantrymen that had initially accused Lieutenant R., of repeatedly shooting the girl admitted that they had lied to have the officer ousted from command. Captain R had claimed that the soldiers under his command "were out to get him because they are Jewish and he is Druze."


On 15 November 2005 a military tribunal acquitted Captain R., clearing him of all the charges against him.cite web|title=Not guilty. The Israeli captain who emptied his rifle into a Palestinain schoolgirl|author=Chris McGreal|publisher=Guardian|date=15 November 2005|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=,,1643504,00.html]

Upon hearing the verdict, Captain R., burst into tears and turned to the public benches and said: "I told you I was innocent."cite web|title=Not guilty. The Israeli captain who emptied his rifle into a Palestinain schoolgirl|author=Chris McGreal|publisher=Guardian|date=15 November 2005|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=,,1643504,00.html]

Iman's father, Samir al-Hams, responded to the verdict by saying that from the outset there was no intention to hold the officer accountable:

"They did not charge him with Iman's murder, only with small offences, and now they say he is innocent of those even though he shot my daughter so many times ... This was the cold-blooded murder of a girl. The soldier murdered her once and the court has murdered her again. What is the message? They are telling their soldiers to kill Palestinian children."

The Palestinian Authority condemned the verdict.

Military police investigation into first investigation

In February 2006, Ha'aretz newspaper reported that a Military Police internal investigation found that there were major failures in the October 2004 investigation into the killing of al-Hams.cite web|title=Inquiry faults probe of Gaza girl's killing|author=Amos Harel|publisher=Defence for Children International-Palestine section|date=18 February 2006|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=]

Two reservist officers appointed by Military Police Commander Brigadier General Roni Benny to examine the Military Police's conduct during the investigation determined that investigators acted unprofessionally and with negligence.

The two officers criticized the decision not to appoint a special investigation team led by higher-ranking, more experienced officials and also noted that the incident was not appropriately documented by the investigation.

The military police officer in charge of the investigation was reprimanded and the head of the investigation team was censured.

Compensation and promotion to rank of major

Subsequent to his acquittal, Captain R., was promoted to the rank of majorcite web|title="Don't worry - it's just another Palestinian child's death"|author=Leigh Brady|date=31 March 2006|publisher=Electronic Intifada|accessdate=2007-12-02|url=] and in March 2006, the Israeli press reported that he would receive 82,000 New Israel Shekels (roughly $17,000) as part of an arrangement reached between his lawyers and the Israeli military prosecutor.fact|date=September 2008 Awarded to cover legal expenses and damages, an Israeli army spokeswoman said the court "agreed to compensate him because it was convinced that he was wronged".fact|date=September 2008 Captain R. also filed a libel suit against Dayan and Channel 2.
Yousuf Rizqa, the Minister of Information for the Palestinian Authority described both the acquittal and compensation as "infinitely scandalous and defying logic and morality".fact|date=September 2008

ee also

*List of Palestinian civilian casualties in the Second Intifada
*Children and minors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
*Muhammed al-Dura
*Faris Odeh

External links

* [ The Case of Captain R] (Counterpunch reprint of article in Ha'aretz)
* [ Israeli Army Chief 'Emptied His Magazine' at Girl in Gaza] (Common Dreams)


NAME=Hams, Iyman
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Palestinian child

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