Israel orders inquiry into
shooting of Palestinian girl
Philip Jacobson in Jerusalem
The Israeli high command has ordered an urgent
investigation into the killing of a Palestinian Christian girl after
the car in which she and her family were travelling came under heavy
fire from troops hunting Islamic militants.
About 30 bullets were sprayed at the vehicle at close
range, killing Christine Saadeh, 12, and wounding her father, the
headmaster of a Greek Orthodox school, her mother and her
The army investigation will focus on whether Israeli
forces in the West Bank and Gaza are becoming too quick on the
trigger - an allegation made increasingly by human rights
Christine was the third Palestinian child to be
killed by troops this month - a 14-year-old boy was shot in Jenin
last week - and Israeli officials admit privately that the deaths
are causing concern at cabinet level. One official said: "There
would be no justification for the death of Palestinians under the
age of 16, even if they were throwing Molotov cocktails."
After the killing in Bethlehem last Tuesday night,
army officers claimed that soldiers had fired on the Saadehs' car
because they feared it was about to run them over. But in a
statement the next day, a military spokesman made no mention of
this, and expressed deep regret over "a tragic turn of events".
The Israeli media reported that an operation had been
under way to arrest two Palestinians wanted in connection with
attacks by militants. The army says the pair had been driving just
ahead of the Saadehs' car and initiated the gun battle. Both men
were killed in the shooting. A third Palestinian man, believed to be
a passer-by, also died.
At a Jerusalem hospital, where he is recovering from
wounds to his back and abdomen, Christine's father George Saadeh,
41, told The Telegraph what happened after the family set off for a
supermarket in their car.
"I saw two army jeeps on Nasser Street and thought
about reversing away, but Palestinians know that can be fatal, so I
drove towards them very slowly.
"I put on my indicator to show I was pulling out to
avoid their vehicles. Just as we passed in front of them, the
windscreen was blown in and bullets started flying around the car. I
pulled up and screamed at the soldiers to stop the firing, but it
continued. I looked behind and saw Christine slumped down, covered
His daughter Marian, 15, was shot in the leg and his
wife received cuts to her head.
Mr Saadeh, head of the Orthodox Shepherd's School, is
a respected figure in Bethlehem. He campaigns for peace and
reconciliation, welcomes Muslim pupils and has numerous Jewish
"I've always taught my students that we should live
together in love and harmony in the Holy Land, but what's happening
now is terrible, people are just getting crazy," he said. He was
doing his best as a true Christian "not to allow hate into my heart
at those who killed my beautiful little girl".