The Southern Command military court acquitted Tuesday of all charges an IDF captain who was accused of violating army rules by shooting at the body of 13-year-old Palestinian girl he feared was sent by terrorists.
The captain was charged of improper use of his weapon.
Following the ruling, the soldier burst into tears saying, "I'm happy and content."
"My account was the truth and I stuck to it from the beginning. I want to return and be a combat fighter…I hope that the IDF will learn its lessons from all the mistakes of this trial," he said.
The scandal broke out on October 5, 2004, when news surfaced that the IDF Captain, whose name cannot be revealed, had fired at the dead body of a Palestinian school girl to confirm her death.
On that day, soldiers spotted a figure entering a military zone near the Israel-Egypt border and shots were fired from a base on the Philadelphi route. The captain and a number of soldiers left the base to inspect the body, which appeared to belong to a female pupil carrying a school bag.
The case caused a firestorm when rumors had it that although the girl was dead when the soldiers reached the scene, the captain emptied a magazine on her body to confirm her death when he suspected that her bag was booby-trapped. An ensuing search revealed that the bag was filled with textbooks.
In an initial query into the incident the captain told military investigators that he did not intend to shoot the girl yet had to do so when Palestinian gunmen opened fire in his direction from empty houses in Rafah. Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon accepted the captain's version of events and reinstated him to military duty.
In November 2004, the military prosecution decided to press charges against the suspect and accused him of improperly using his weapon.
The captain maintained his innocence, charging that he never performed a “confirmed kill” and accused his soldiers of deliberately wanting to hurt him for his stubborn attitude on duty.
In February 2005, a main witness decided to withdraw his initial testimony against the suspect, accusing soldiers in the base of providing false testimonies to harm the captain, whose strictness they disliked.
Unable to reach a conclusive verdict, a team of military judges visited the scene of the incident under heavy security and listened to the suspect's version of events. A review of a video tape recorded by the army on October 5, 2004, showed a suspicious figure in the area as the girl approached the base.
This missing link supported the captain's testimony that he feared the girl was sent by terrorists to draw IDF soldiers out of the base and carry out a shooting attack.
Tuesday's ruling brought an end a legal inquiry that lasted a year and drew unprecedented media attention and speculations.
However, it is estimated that the prosecution is planning to file an appeal.