Reports on the Death of a US 'Human Shield' in Gaza
The Murder of Rachel Corrie: An Eyewittness Account, Israeli Forces Attack Corrie Memorial, At the Memorial for Rachel in Rafah, Olympica Remembers Rachel, and Army Stops US Woman's Body from Leaving Gaza
March 28, 2003
The Murder of Rachel Corrie: An Eyewittness Account
Email from Tom Dale
Rafah is in the southern Gaza strip, next to the Egyptian border. Apart from suffering in excess from the problems all over Palestine (Israeli manipulation of the water supply, economic strangulation, regular shootings and army operations), Rafah is afflicted by the building of an extra border wall. Its construction has caused hundreds of homes to be destroyed.
| Rachel's friends scramble to her aide after a military bulldozer rolled over her twice. But it was too late. Credit: International Solidarity Movement |
The house in question, that of a doctor, like dozens of others in the area, is not set to be demolished because of any supposed link to militants [but] because it lies within 100 meters of the new border wall, currently in construction. Families receive no compensation from Israel and are frequently given just a few minutes warning in the form of live ammunition being shot through the walls of their house.
I was 10 meters away when it happened two days ago, and this is the way it went: We'd been monitoring and occasionally obstructing two bulldozers for about 2 hours when one of them turned toward a house we knew to be threatened with demolition.
Rachel knelt down in its way. She was 10-20 meters in front of the bulldozer, clearly visible, the only object for many meters, directly in it's view. They were in radio contact with a tank that had a profile view of the situation. There is no way she could not have been seen by them in their elevated cabin. They knew where she was, there is no doubt.
The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there. She did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. Her faced showed she was panicking and it was clear she was in danger of being overwhelmed.
All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop and gesturing to the crew about Rachel's presence [but] they continued.
They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued until her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did.
I ran for an ambulance. She was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. She was showing signs of brain hemorrhaging. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries.
She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.
Tom Dale is an 18-year-old English student living in Palestine.
For more about Rachel, her writings, photos, statements on her death and for information about the International Solidarity Movement: www.palsolidarity.org
Israeli Forces Attack Corrie Memorial
by Cris McGreal / The Guardian (London) in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (March 19, 2003) -- Israeli forces fired teargas and stun grenades yesterday in an attempt to break up a memorial service for Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist killed by an army bulldozer in Gaza on Sunday.
| Crushed and bleeding, Rachel slowly died in her friends arms. Credit: International Solidarity Movement |
Witnesses including several dozen foreigners and Palestinian supporters say Israeli armored vehicles tried to disperse the gathering at the spot in Rafah refugee camp where Ms. Corrie was crushed to death. The 23 year-old activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) was trying to prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes by the Israelis when she was hit by the bulldozer.
Joe Smith, a young activist from Kansas City, said about 100 people were gathered to lay carnations and erect a small memorial when the first armored personnel carrier appeared.
"They started firing teargas and blowing smoke, then they fired sound grenades. After a while it got hectic so we sat down. Then the tank came over and shot in the air," he said. "It scared a lot of Palestinians, especially the shooting made a lot of them run and the teargas freaked people out. But most of us stayed."
Another witness said the army failed to break up the service. "People were laying carnations at the spot where Rachel was killed when a tank came and fired teargas right on them. Then a core group of the peace activists took an ISM cloth banner to the fence and pinned it up. "The tank chased after them trying to stop them with teargas," she said.
Tensions rose further when a convoy of vehicles, including the bulldozer that killed Ms. Corrie, passed the area. "I don't think it was deliberate but it was pretty insensitive," said Mr. Smith. "I think they had been destroying some buildings elsewhere and had to pass by to get back to their base." The army said it was investigating the incident.
At the Memorial for Rachel in Rafah
by Tobias Karlsson / International Solidarity Movement
Today we held a memorial ceremony for Rachel Corrie in Rafah. ISMers from Nablus and Jenin and activists from the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron arrived to pay respects to our murdered friend.
We marched in silence through the city, 15 internationals with more and more Palestinians joining en route. By the time when we arrived to the spot where the [military] bulldozer took Rachel's life, we numbered about 200.
We held a ceremony, planting flowers next to a small memorial. I planted three flowers -- from ISM Jenin, ISM Sweden and the third from a close friend of Rachel's.
The [Israeli Defense Force (IDF)] was notified in advance that we would hold this ceremony to honor our friend whom they murdered two days ago, still they couldn't respect us enough to stay away.
Less than 15 minutes after we arrived, they sent out an APC [Armored Personnel Carrrier] that drove up and started to cover the area with thick white smoke. We continued our ceremony by walking out in the 3-400 meters-wide desert-landscape that is the so-called security-zone on the Egyptian border. The APC followed us as we walked up to the barbed-wire fence [where we] hung an ISM-banner and lay more flowers on the ground.
Activists and Palestinians (who has not been able to enter this area for many years) started to confront the vehicle, putting flowers and posters of Rachel on it. The soldiers acted somewhat restrained in the beginning. One activist was even able to climb the APC and hand over a Rachel poster through the lid on top of the APC.
After half an hour, several more vehicles approached -- three bulldozers and two more APCs. When we saw that one of the bulldozers -- Number 949-623 -- was the same one that killed Rachel, things got very emotional. We were all outraged and many activists were crying.
The soldiers now took a more aggressive approach, driving around the crowd at high speed, putting lives of activists and Palestinians in great danger. Some activists tried to stand in front of them but had to jump out of their path not to get run over. [The soldiers] threw some percussion-grenades and some tear-gas (that dispersed in seconds in the dusty Rafah wind).
The peace activists responded by covering [the vehicles] in flowers and pictures of Rachel. Eventually they all left, except for the first APC and we decided to end our session with a sit-in. We all sat in a minute of silence before we marched together out of the no-man's-land that is normally entered only by the occupation-army's killer-machines.
We must never forget Rachel Corrie, the sacrifice she made, nor the other international aid and press workers that the Israelis have killed.
Tobias Karlsson is an ISM-Coordinator in the Jenin area of the Occupied Territories.
Olympica Remembers Rachel
by Phan Nguyen / Evergreen College
On behalf of Rachel's activist friends in Olympia, I felt it necessary to send this letter. These words come from me, but I hope I can write this on behalf of Rachel's activist friends in Olympia.
|Rachel Corrie in Gaza before her death |
As you can imagine, all of us in the Olympia community are dealing with a great loss. Rachel grew up in Olympia, and it seems as if everyone here knew her. If they didn't attend school with her, then they had a child who attended school with her. Her involvement in many local causes and activities had fostered relationships between Rachel and Olympians from all walks of life -- progressive, conservative, mainstream, alternative.
Although she was only 23, Rachel was active in many causes, domestic and international. She was a relentless organizer and leader, involved in the Evergreen Labor Center and frequently described as the "heart and soul" of the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace.
Her primary goal in traveling to the Gaza Strip was to establish a "sister community" relationship between Olympia and Rafah, similar to the sister county relationship we currently have with Santo Tomas, Nicaragua.
She was especially interested in establishing a long-term international presence in the Gaza Strip, as most attention had previously been directed towards the West Bank. She wanted those in Gaza to know that they were not forgotten.
There have been some attempts to portray her final actions as naive or reckless, but those of us who knew her know better. She had strong convictions of social justice, and she sought to create a better world for everyone, protecting those less privileged, in whatever capacity she felt possible.
As an ISM volunteer myself, I must say that her actions on March 16 should have carried a relatively low risk, compared to the many other actions we ISM volunteers have faced. She could not have expected the sadistic actions of the bulldozer operator.
The IDF and its sympathizers claim that she should not have been in a war zone. The truth is she was not in a war zone. She was in a Palestinian residential neighborhood and was welcomed by the locals. We must instead ask what Israeli tanks and bulldozers are doing in Palestinian residential neighborhoods.
It has been a long process for those of us who are still in shock upon hearing of Rachel's death. She was a vital part of the community, and the void is now only more apparent.
The loss of a single member of our community is unbearable. It is much more difficult to imagine the loss of almost 2,000 Palestinians, each one of them a vital, irreplaceable member of the community. Rachel's death demonstrates how committed we must remain in our fight against the Occupation.
What You Can Do: Work towards justice by highlighting Amnesty International's denunciation of US-sponsored Israeli violence and supporting the demands set by the human rights organization. http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/2003/israel03172003
Army Stops US Woman's Body from Leaving Gaza
by Agence France-Presse
(March 18, 2003, 11:04AM) -- The Israeli army prevented an ambulance carrying the body of a US activist who was crushed to death by a bulldozer a day earlier from leaving the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources said.
Rachel Corrie, a volunteer from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was buried alive by an Israeli bulldozer on Sunday afternoon as she was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian house in Rafah, on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
Corrie's parents were not able to fly from Washington DC to Attend the funeral due to travel restrictions imposed by the United States on US citizens wishing to go to Israel in the context of an imminent war in Iraq. They had asked that the body be cremated in Tel Aviv and her ashes flown back to the US. They declined to allow their daughter's remains to be transferred by the Israeli army or the US embassy.
The ISM activists said they had struck a deal with the army for three of them to accompany the body to Tel Aviv by ambulance. But Palestinian security sources said it was turned back by the soldiers manning the Sufa checkpoint between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The ambulance was headed back to a European hospital between Khan Yunis and Rafah, they said.
The Israeli army has stated that it regretted Corrie's death but the ISM movement And Palestinians who witnessed the incident said she was deliberately killed.
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