Pro-Palestinian American Protester Killed by Israeli Bulldozer

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:13pm EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - The U.S. say it has contacted Israel about the death of a pro-Palestinian American activist who was run over by an Israeli bulldozer as she protested in the Gaza Strip.

Israel, meanwhile, kept up its pressure on terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, where nine Palestinians were reported killed in two separate raids.

On Sunday, Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed when an Israeli bulldozer ran over her as she stood in its way. Israel called it an accident.

Corrie, of Olympia, Washington, was in the Gaza Strip with a small group of activists in the area with the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian led group that uses civil disobedience to protest Israeli actions in the territories.

There were conflicting reports about the exact circumstance of her death, but other activists with her were quoted as saying that she was standing alone in front of a bulldozer on top of a pile of earth when she fell.

The bulldozer apparently plowed dirt or sand over her, crushing her. She was taken to a local hospital where she died of her injuries, reports said.

A U.S. Embassy official said on Monday that the U.S. regretted the "tragic death" of Corrie and offered sincere condolences to the family.

"We are in touch with the Israeli government about the matter," the Embassy official said. "We hope there will be no cases like this in the future."

Calling the incident "a very unfortunate accident," an army spokesman said that the driver of the bulldozer could not see Corrie because she had come too close. The bulletproof windows of the piece of equipment are very small, limiting visibility, he added.

The Israeli forces were operating in an area along the Israeli-Egyptian border, which is under Israeli security control in order to uncover explosive devises.

It is part of the ongoing activity against the threat of explosive devices and tunnels in the area, the army said. Tunnels under the border area are used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.

"To prevent harm to the protestors, the IDF [Israeli army] moved away from them, but the protestors approached the forces," the army said in a statement.

"The forces called to the protestors to disperse. An initial inquiry indicates that an IDF bulldozer apparently accidentally ran over a protestor," the statement said.

During the last two years, a number of groups of activists have traveled to Palestinian areas and tried to stop Israeli army operations by positioning themselves as "human shields" to protect the Palestinians.

Corrie was the first person to be killed in such an action.

On Sunday, the State Department issued a travel advisory warning Americans that sections of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been declared closed military zones and that Israel might refuse entry to people "it believes might travel to 'closed' areas in the West Bank or Gaza or to persons the Israeli authorities believe may sympathize with the Palestinian cause and are seeking to meet with Palestinian officials."

Seven Palestinians were reported killed, including a child, during an Israeli raid into the Nusseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Monday. According to reports, Palestinians said troops and tanks backed by combat helicopters entered the central Gaza camp before dawn.

The army said that it was intending to arrest Mohammed, Sa'afen, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad activist but fierce battles erupted when gunmen opened fire on the troops as they entered the camp.

Palestinian sources reported that Ilham al-Assar, four, Omar Abu Yusef and Omar Darwish, both 17, were among the dead.

"We fired [only] on gunmen and [sources of ] fire," an army spokesperson said in response to the charges.

Sa'afen, in his late 30's, was a former member of the Palestinian Authority Intelligence Services and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction. But with the advent of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000, Sa'afen also joined the PIJ, security sources said.

Sa'afen was accused of being responsible for launching mortar shells at Israeli targets, planting explosive devices and sending two car bombs, which exploded in the Gaza Strip as well as planning to carry out a series of attacks against Israeli forces, the security sources said.

Sa'afen was killed during the Gaza raid while trying to escape after firing on the Israeli troops, the army said. Forces arrested Sa'afen's brother Sami, who is also a senior PIJ activist, and brothers Omar and Jamal Kadah, who were weapons' dealers, the army said.

In a separate incident two Palestinians were reportedly killed in another raid in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, where there were also heavy exchanges of fire.

In the West Bank, some 25 wanted Palestinians were arrested overnight by Israeli troops.

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