Joe L. Meek's Leaks
srael Clears Officer of Killing Journalist Who Had White Flag
by Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
The British government formally protested to Israel after the army officer who opened fire when the film-maker James Miller was shot dead in Gaza two years ago was acquitted of disciplinary charges.
The decision by the head of Israel's Southern Command to clear the officer overturned a recommendation by the military advocate general that he should be severely disciplined. Mr Miller was killed in Rafah in 2003 while walking back to his lodgings displaying a white flag and clearly identifying himself to troops as a journalist.
The officer acquitted yesterday has admitted opening fire and a 79-page report by Brigadier-General Avihai Mandelblit, the advocate general, held that the first lieutenant in the Bedouin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion had fired in clear breach of army rules of engagement.
Mr Miller's widow Sophy said the decision "makes a mockery of Israeli claims that they follow due process where IDF soldiers have acted criminally and outside their own rules of engagement".
Mr Miller's family had been bitterly disappointed when they were told at a meeting with General Mandleblit in Tel Aviv last month that the officer would not be prosecuted because of a lack of ballistic evidence proving the bullet which killed Mr Miller came from the officer's weapon. But they - and British officials - were assured that the advocate general was recommending a stiff disciplinary sentence.
Baroness Symons, the Foreign Office minister, has summoned Zvi Heifetz, the Israeli ambassador in London, on Monday to protest at the decision and urge that it be reversed, a message also strongly conveyed in a letter last night by Simon McDonald, the British ambassador in Tel Aviv, in a letter to Shaul Mofaz, Israel's Defense Minister.
Yesterday, Baroness Symons said she was "shocked and saddened" by the decision by the Brigadier-General Guy Tzur, the Southern Command chief of staff. The Israeli army said General Tzur decided that under the conditions then - including "frequent terrorist attacks; thick darkness and earlier that same day the soldiers were fired at by anti-tank missiles" - the shooting was "reasonable". The family's lawyers are seeking reversal of the decision. .
Mr Miller, an award-winning documentary maker who had been working on a film about Palestinian children caught up in the conflict, was shot while walking openly with two colleagues to their apartment.
They were carrying a white flag with a torch shone on it, their helmets were clearly marked "TV" and they called out that they were British journalists as they approached an armored personnel carrier to ask permission to leave. Israeli claims of heavy fire between Palestinians and Israeli troops at the time were disproved because an Associated Press cameraman filmed the incident.
Mrs Miller said the family believed there had been no "genuine will" to uncover the truth because the site of the shooting had not been secured for forensic investigation. It was bulldozed three days later and Israeli authorities took 11 weeks to impound the guns involved in Mr Miller's death for ballistic examination.