The family of an American activist crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza is suing Israel.
The parents of Rachel Corrie are seeking $324,000 in compensation from Israel's Defense Ministry for the death of their daughter in 2003. Arguments in the civil case opened in a Haifa court on Wednesday.
About 40 people carrying signs reading, "Remembering Rachel Corrie" protested outside the courthouse.
The 23-year-old Corrie was trying to block the bulldozer from demolishing a Gaza home. The driver said he didn't see her, and the Israeli military has ruled her death an accident.
Corrie was an activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which often sends foreign activists into volatile hot spots to assist Palestinians.
'Remembering Rachel Corrie'. Rally outside courthouse (Avisag She'ar-Yeshuv)
The Corries unsuccessfully tried to sue Caterpillar Inc., the US company that manufactured the bulldozer.
Before the hearing began, Craig Corrie, Rachel's father, said the family had been on a "seven-year search for justice in Rachel's name."
"I think when the truth comes out about Rachel, the truth will not wound Israel, the truth is the start of making us heal," he said.
Cynthia Corrie, the mother, mentioned the Israeli citizens who support the family and thanked the US Embassy for helping to prepare the lawsuit. On Tuesday, the parents met with members of visiting US Vice President Joe Biden's entourage.
"I just want to say to Rachel that our family is here today trying to just do right by her and I hope that she will be very proud of the effort we are making," she was quoted by the Guardian as saying.
The Guardian reported that the family's lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, will argue that witness evidence shows the soldiers saw Corrie at the scene, with other activists, well before the incident and could have arrested her or removed her from the area before there was any risk of her being killed.
He will argue her death was either due to gross negligence by the Israeli authorities or was intentional, said the British newspaper.
According to the statement of claim, Corrie and another ISM activist were wearing a fluorescent orange vest and waved a sign that identified them as members of the leftist organization. It said she kneeled in front of the military Caterpillar D9R bulldozer, then got back up on her feet, but was crushed because it did not stop. She died shortly afterwards.
Richard Purssell, a Briton who was an ISM volunteer along with Corrie, described the moment Corrie was killed. "Rachel disappeared inside the earth and the bulldozer continued for 4 meters and then reversed," he told the court.
In contrast to the activists' claim that their protest was peaceful, the statement of defense, filed by the State, said that at 4 pm, an hour prior to Corrie's death, a grenade was thrown towards the bulldozer. The statement did acknowledge that Corrie was accidentally crushed by the bulldozer, adding that the driver heeded the activists' calls to stop.
An IDF investigation determined that the soldiers were not to blame and said the driver of the bulldozer had not seen her and did not intentionally run her over. The army accused Corrie and the International Solidarity Movement of "illegal, irresponsible and dangerous" behavior.
AP contributed to the report