Bulldozer driver in Corrie case: 'I didn't see I hit her'

Driver testifies behind a screen; family's lawyer says testimony of conflicting reports proves driver's guilt.

Rachel Corrie's Parents 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Rachel Corrie's Parents 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The bulldozer driver who struck and killed Rachel Corrie in the Gaza Strip seven years ago testified on Thursday behind a partition in Haifa District Court that the first time he saw the victim was after she was dragged out of the rubble in front of his vehicle.
The driver, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union who arrived in Israel in 1995, read in halting Hebrew from an affidavit he had submitted to the court several months earlier.
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Thursday's court hearing involved a lawsuit filed by the Corrie family five years ago, after the army refused to press charges against those allegedly responsible for the young woman's death.
The family then sued the State of Israel for gross negligence, charging that its soldiers and officers had acted recklessly, using an armored Caterpillar D9R bulldozer without regard to the presence in the area of unarmed and non-violent civilians. 
Corrie and seven other members of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement were protesting against the demolition by the IDF of Palestinian homes in Rafiah, in the Gaza Strip.
One source who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Jerusalem Post it was hard to believe that the bulldozer driver was telling the truth because Corrie and her friends had been out in the area for three hours demonstrating against the demolitions. Furthermore, he said, Corrie was the only woman among the protesters and she was a strikingly tall, blonde woman. Furthermore, she was only one of three demonstrators wearing bright orange fluorescent jackets and was holding a megaphone.
Corrie family lawyer Hussein Abu Hussein accused YF of making many contradictions in his testimony. For example, he claimed that the mound of earth which the bulldozer had piled up in an earth-clearing assignment was two meters high. But photos at the scene of the killing demonstrated that the mound was only half a meter high.
On the other hand, the driver maintained that Corrie's body was found in between the mound and the bulldozer, which had backed away in reverse after the crew heard that a woman had been killed. The state has maintained that Corrie was behind the mound, and therefore could not be seen by the driver.
Abu Hussein asked YF why he hadn't stopped the bulldozer when he saw the other demonstrators nearby. "These were our instructions," he replied. "I'm just a soldier. I carry out orders. I told the commander there were people around and the order was you don't stop working. It was not my decision, it was the officers."
He said he had been warned before the operation to be careful and that there were civilians in the area. He recalled seeing people holding signs and speaking from a loudspeaker.
After the hearing, Abu Hussein told reporters, "The driver contradicted most of his testimony in the past…The more we hear, the more we have the impression someone is trying to whitewash what happened."
In its defense against the lawsuit, Israel has said that the operation in which Corrie was killed should be considered an "act of war" that took place in the course of an armed conflict in a closed military zone. It also charged that Corrie was responsible for her own death because she acted in reckless disregard for her life.
The next hearing in the trial is set for November 4, when the commander of the bulldozer and a ground commander in charge of the entire operation, which involved two bulldozers, are due to testify.