Rachel Corrie

Rachel Aliene Corrie (April 10, 1979 – March 16, 2003) was an American member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). She was crushed to death in the Gaza Strip by an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) bulldozer when she was kneeling in front of a local Palestinian's home, thus acting as a human shield, attempting to prevent IDF forces from demolishing the home. The IDF has claimed that the death was due to the restricted angle of view of the IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozer driver, while ISM eyewitnesses said "there was nothing to obscure the driver's view."[1]

Twenty-three-year-old Corrie, from Olympia, Washington, in the US, went to Gaza for peace activism reasons at a time when there was intense conflict between the Israeli military and the Palestinians.

The Corrie family lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, said he would argue that her death was due either to gross negligence by the Israeli military or that it was intended. If the Israeli state were found responsible, the family would press for damages.

Purssell, a Briton, now working as a landscape gardener, said he volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to witness events in the occupied Palestinian territories for himself. In Rafah he had been hoping to prevent the Israeli military from demolishing Palestinian homes. The organisation was strictly non violent, he said. "Our role was to support Palestinian non-violent resistance."

On the day of her death, 16 March 2003, Corrie was with seven other activists, including Purssell, in Rafah, close to the Israeli-guarded border with Egypt. They saw an Israeli military armoured Caterpillar D9 bulldozer approaching the house of a Palestinian doctor.

Purssell described how the bulldozer approached at a fast walking pace, its blade down and gathering a pile of soil in its path. When the bulldozer was 20 metres from the house Corrie, who like the others was wearing an orange fluorescent jacket, climbed on to the soil in front of it and stood "looking into the cab of the bulldozer".

"The bulldozer continued to move forward," Purssell said. "Rachel turned to come back down the slope. The earth is still moving and as she nears the bottom of the pile something happened which causes her to fall forward. The bulldozer continued to move forward and Rachel disappeared from view under the moving earth."

The bulldozer continued forward four metres as the activists began to run forward and shout at the driver.

"It passed the point where Rachel fell, it stopped and reversed back along the track it first made. Rachel was lying on the earth," Purssell said. "She was still breathing." Corrie was severely injured and died shortly afterwards.

The Israeli military says it bears no responsibility for Corrie's death. A month after her death the military said an investigation had determined its troops were not to blame; the driver of the bulldozer had not seen her and had not intentionally run her over. It accused Corrie and the ISM of behaviour that was "illegal, irresponsible and dangerous".