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Israeli cleared of shooting teen


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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- An Israeli army commander has been cleared in the killing of a 13-year-old Palestinian girl, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The man -- who was accused by his own soldiers of repeatedly shooting the girl's body to make sure she was dead -- was cleared of wrongdoing after an internal military investigation.

Israeli soldiers shot Iman al-Hams at a checkpoint near Rafah, in southern Gaza on October 5.

According to the IDF, the soldiers initially believed that she was trying to plant a bomb she was carrying in her schoolbag.

The girl's mother insisted that she was on her way to school when she became frightened by shooting in the area and, in her panic, ran toward the soldiers.

After it was determined that the girl was shot as many as 20 times, the incident ignited a controversy in Israel.

Two soldiers in the company contacted Israel's largest newspaper, Yediot Ahrohnot, to allege that the commander continued shooting the girl while she was on the ground after she was dead.

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

The investigation found that as he approached the girl, he noticed bullets striking at his side "and shot toward the ground as he moved back," rather than shooting at the girl, according to the statement.

Military police are continuing to investigate the incident, and the commander could be removed from his duties if new evidence emerges that challenges his story, the statement said.

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," the statement said.

"Should the company commander's version prove otherwise, he will barred for any command position in the IDF."

Meanwhile, the commander has been suspended because of "failures" in his "ability to command and in his relations with his subordinates," the IDF statement said.

A decision on the commander's future in the IDF will be made within the next week, the statement said.


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