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Israeli army commander arrested

Captain accused of shooting teen repeatedly

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli military police have arrested a previously-cleared army commander after additional investigation indicated he may have lied about repeatedly shooting a 13-year-old Palestinian girl.

Officials have not released the name of the army commander involved in the October 5 incident, and Israeli media identify him only as "Captain R," Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported.

The commander said he saw evidence of gunfire near him and responded by firing at the ground. He said he did not shoot at the body of the girl, who was first hit by gunfire from other soldiers.

Last week, an Israel Defense Forces statement relayed that Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'lon, the army chief-of-staff, "accepts the company commander's version of events whereby he fired to the ground in response to fire opened in his direction. Should the company commander's version prove otherwise, he will (be) barred for any command position in the IDF."

Wednesday the IDF issued another statement. It reads:

"The military police investigation regarding the circumstances of the killing of the Palestinian girl along the Israeli-Egyptian border near Rafah on Oct. 5, 2004, has raised suspicions that the version of events given by the company commander was false. The company commander was arrested tonight (Tuesday) by the military police and is under investigation. The chief of staff views this matter gravely. Upon the conclusion and findings of the military police investigation, the chief of staff will consider further measures."

Israeli soldiers shot Iman al-Hams, who was carrying a schoolbag, at a checkpoint near Rafah. Soldiers believed the teen was trying to plant a bomb concealed in the satchel.

Soon after the shooting, the girl's mother said fear prompted her daughter to bolt toward Israeli troops.

"She was on her way to school. There was a lot of shooting that morning and when she heard it, she became hysterical," Hwaydeh Salman al-Hams said earlier this month. "Instead of running back home she ran towards the soldiers."

Controversy gripped the incident after authorities determined the girl sustained at least 20 gunshot wounds, and two Israeli soldiers charged that their commander repeatedly shot her.

The soldiers contacted Israel's largest newspaper, Yediot Ahrohnot.

"I was sure she was 12 or maybe younger. I reported it over the two-way radio," one soldier told the newspaper. He said shots were fired and the girl fell to the ground. "Then our commander shot her twice. He made sure she was dead and then, I don't know why, but he decided to turn back towards her body and unloaded a round of bullets into it ... this was the most revolting thing I have ever seen as a soldier."

The commander has accused the soldiers of launching a personal vendetta against him.

The commander has been on suspension because of what the IDF called "failures" in his "ability to command and in his relations with his subordinates."

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