Affidavits from eyewitnesses to Rachel Corrie killing (Durie, Carr, Hewitt)

3 July 2003

AFFIDAVIT: Nicholas James Porter Durie

I the undersigned, Nicholas James Porter Durie, passport number 035677544, born on 16th of June 1983 in Dundee, Scotland, am giving my statement under oath for the advocate Raji Sourani on the death or homicide of the late Rachel Corrie on the 16th of March 2003.

I am in the occupied territories of Palestine in order to show solidarity with the Palestinian people through membership and engagement in the human rights work of the International Solidarity Movement. I arrived at Ben Gurion airport on the 5th of March 2003 and stayed for several days in Jerusalem before making my way into the Gaza strip on the 9th of March and proceeding to Rafah to link up with ISM activists there.

On the afternoon of the 16th of March I was in the Hi es Salam area of Rafah to help in the construction of a small shack for a Palestinian family with whom the group is acquainted. It was in searching for nails around the outskirts of the family’s house, in order to build this structure that I, along with my fellow ISM activist Alice, first noticed the two D-9 bulldozers operating in the area, with a tank present in the rear. While I observed their activities Alice made her way back to the family with whom we were engaging in building work in order to phone the rest of the group. The time was around a quarter past two in the afternoon, and by around three o’clock all of the ISM activists based in Rafah had made their way to the area in which the bulldozers were working.

For the next few hours after I had first noticed the bulldozers we placed ourselves bodily between the civilian structures which they were trying to demolish, and the bulldozers themselves, actively attempting to hinder, curtail and frustrate their activities. At times the bulldozers would back off and at times we would be forced to move, but it seemed clear to me that the bulldozer drivers were in full control of their machines, moreover they were always aware of our presence. Indeed on one occasion shortly after three o’clock one of the bulldozers wedged me, while I was sat down, between the mound of earth carried between its blade and the foundations of an uncompleted building; the bulldozer driver saw me and I saw him and on this occasion the bulldozer driver elected to back up.

Soon after this and perhaps due to the Israeli soldiers’ exasperation at our efforts to stop them destroying civilian buildings the bulldozers withdrew to either side of the tank, which had remained stationary on the border strip. This tank then launched a teargas canister some several hundred yards from us. This wafted uselessly away from us due to the prevailing wind; the tank then fired several single shots into the ground adjacent to the gas canister. I knew that the gas was teargas as the small amount of gas which had diffused into the area surrounding me caused my eyes to water.

After this incident with the teargas the bulldozers began to move in lines nearly symmetrical to the border strip, edging inwards to the Hi es Salam area. I followed them as they made their way gradually towards the locus of the day’s tragic culmination. Soon after the change in the pattern of the bulldozers’ movements (from perpendicular to the border strip, to that of a similar axis to it) the tank moved forward, further along the border strip, much nearer Dr. Samir’s house, and again employed teargas. This was as ineffective as the last attempt to use teargas and it was not used again that day. This final use of teargas was around four o’clock, perhaps somewhat earlier.

Myself and Thom (who I now know to be one Thomas Dale) continued to follow the foremost bulldozer, as it moved nearer Dr. Samir’s house. We heard a small bang to our rear but did not observe whence it came. This passed off without further incident and it was not until some half hour afterwards that we, all eight of us, made our way to the place where Rachel was killed.

The two D-9 bulldozers were operating in an area around a house we sleep in (the aforementioned Dr. Samir’s). This house is bedaubed with slogans of our presence there, and sits beside a demolished structure (a mess of broken concrete and rubble), a walled olive grove and some detritus, assembled in an area behind the demolished structure.

As we had been doing throughout the previous several hours we were there placing ourselves bodily between the IDF bulldozers and the civilian structures. The action were we engaged in around the olive grove continued for some time as the D-9 bulldozers piled up earth and detritus from previously destroyed civilian structures in their shovels and moved them towards us. Just prior to the incident which led to Rachel’s death I was sitting atop just such a pile of rubble with my fellow activist Joe, and owing to the bulldozer nearest me being in reverse I was focusing on the other bulldozer which was moving towards Rachel (who was crouched about fifteen metres from the front of the bulldozer, and thus was patently within the line of sight of the bulldozer driver, wearing a fluorescent orange jacket) at a speed of some five miles per hour, or so, a slow and purposeful advance. The bulldozer’s blade was lowered and the bulldozer continued to progress at a steady five miles per hours, or so, notwithstanding Rachel’s presence as it reached Rachel with its pile of earth and rubble in the van of its shovel. When this reached Rachel she ascended the pile. It was at this point within the driver’s capabilities both to see Rachel on the top of the pile of earth and to stop, as it was within the capabilities of the nearby driver of the other bulldozer, and the crew of the nearby tank to see Rachel atop the mound of earth. At no point however did the driver of the bulldozer which killed Rachel make any attempt to stop or slow down. The bulldozer maintained its steady pace. Rachel then began to turn, perhaps to escape from the top the pile of earth in light of the fact that the driver was not slowing down. During her turning she slipped and fell to the ground in front of the bulldozer which notwithstanding continued its steady pace and Rachel was quickly engulfed in the progressing mound of earth. At this point we, the seven ISM activists who were present apart from Rachel had began screaming at the driver, and gesturing him to stop, that our companion had fallen and been engulfed by the earth in the bulldozer’s van and some of us began to run towards the incident. This engulfing of Rachel, and our screaming that this had happened, I believe, was visible to the crew of the tank, the bulldozer which killed Rachel and the other bulldozer. The bulldozer driver however did not stop, nor adjust his speed but continued onwards at his slow and steady pace of five miles per hour, or so, for another four to five metres, without lifting his blade. The bulldozer then reversed, while we continued to scream, and run towards the incident, without lifting its blade (which in my estimation was very deliberately left unraised as the vehicle backed up), for some twenty metres or so, uncovering Rachel, whose face was cut and bleeding, and whose body was lying in a twisted broken position. The tank then drew nearer the body to the right of it (from our perspective facing Egypt) as Alice, Will and Greg began to administer first aid.

As Joe and Richard began to take photographs of the incident and as an ambulance was called the tank withdrew, along with both bulldozers to the far side of the border strip. Joe then, notwithstanding the best efforts of the driver of the bulldozer which killed Rachel, who moved his vehicle around in order to try to hide it, and the tank, which was generating a smokescreen, took a photograph of the bulldozer’s serial number. As the ambulance arrived and Rachel was placed in a neckbrace and stretchered off to hospital, she was accompanied by Greg, Will, Alice and Thom in the ambulance, while Joe, Richard and myself made our way to the Al-Najar hospital. After we had spent a few minutes there we were informed that she had died.

I the undersigned, Nicholas James Porter Durie gave this statement concerning the death of Rachel Corrie under oath

Nicholas James Porter Durie

This statement was given before me, Lawyer Raji Sourani in my office in the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and in my presence on the 19th of March 2003, by Nicholas James Porter Durie. After I had given him legal warning to tell the truth, he signed his statement in the full capacity of his free and independent will.

Raji Sourani

AFFIDAVIT: Joseph Carr

I the undersigned Joseph Carr, USA Passport number 086728745, born 25 April, 1981, give this statement under oath for the lawyer Raji Sourani about the homicide of the late Rachel Corrie on 16 March, 2003.

I came to Palestine in mid-January to work with the International Solidarity Movement, and came down to Rafah directly after a two-day training. I’ve been there ever since, with the exception of a one-week trip to Europe and back.

On 16 MARCH, 2003, we had split into two groups, one placing themselves between Israeli soldiers along the Egyptian boarder and Palestinian civilian water workers at the Canada water well in Tele Sultan and the other doing the same for electricity workers in Hay Salaam.

At around 1pm, the Hay Salaam activists, Nick, Alice, and Will noticed that two Israeli Army bulldozers and one tank had entered onto Palestinian civilian property near the border and were demolishing farmland and other already damaged structures. The military machinery was severely threatening near-by homes, so Alice, Will, and Nick went up onto the roof of one home, and then called for others to come.

I arrived around 2:30pm, and Will joined me on the ground. The bulldozers moved away from the house activists were occupying, so the other two joined us, and we began to disrupt the work of the bulldozers. We moved slowly at first, just standing near to their work, and then sat and stood on a partially built house that looked threatened. One bulldozer began to damage part of the structure on which we were standing, so a Nick began standing and sitting on the edge of the structure, and made it impossible for the bulldozer to work without injuring him. At this point, Rachel, Greg and Tom joined us from the well, with a banner and a megaphone. Rachel and Richard were wearing jackets that were fluorescent orange and had reflective stripping.

3pm. The bulldozer continued to try and further damage the structure and we continued to get in its way. At one point, a concrete pillar almost fell on Nick, but he moved just in time. We were worried that the two houses behind this structure would be targeted, so we placed one activist on the roof of each house. I went onto the roof of the house closest to the structure, and Will went onto the one just west. Rachel, Greg, and Alice began interfering with the other bulldozer, which was attempting to destroy grass and other plants on what used to be farmland. They stood and sat in its path, and though it would drive very close to them, and even move the earth on which they were sitting, it always stopped in time to avoid injuring them. About 10 minutes later, both bulldozers gave up on their work and withdrew to the boarder and parked to face the houses, one on each side of the tank. I stayed on the roof, as the rest of the activists gathered to face the military machinery with an “International Solidarity Movement” banner, while Rachel shouted at the soldiers with a megaphone. Soldiers in the tank yelled obscenities at us, and told us to leave. They fired a few warning shots at the ground, and then fired a teargas canister. The wind blew the gas east of us, and never came close to a single activist. After a few more minutes of this face off, the bulldozers began driving east together on the boarder strip, and we thought they might have given up. Just in case, Alice, Tom, Nick, Richard, and Greg walked east on Palestinian land, and followed the bulldozers. Will and I came down out of our houses. He joined the others, and I joined Rachel who had stayed with the tank in order to speak to the soldiers over the megaphone. They requested that she approach the tank, but she refused due their rude and aggressive behavior.

3:45. She and I noticed that the bulldozers had incurred back onto Palestinian land, and the six activists were opposing them, so we left the tank to join them. During this round of opposition, one bulldozer pushed Will up against a pile of barbed wire. Fortunately, the bulldozer stopped and withdrew just in time to avoid injuring him seriously, but we had to dig him out of the rubble, and unhook his clothing from the wire. The tank approached to see if he was ok. One soldier stuck his head out of the tank to see, and he looked quite shocked and dumbfounded, but said nothing.

Energized by feeling of winning, we climbed onto some already damaged structures that were threatened, and kept the bulldozers from incurring any further onto Palestinian land. The bulldozer drivers began waving at us, making faces, laughing, and shouting what sounded like lewd comments. One even removed his helmet and posed for a picture, which unfortunately didn’t turn out very well.

Around 4:45pm, one bulldozer, serial number 949623, began to work near the house of Dr. Sameir Massery, a physician who is a friend of ours, and in whose house Rachel and other activists often stayed. I was elevated about 2 meters above the ground, and had a clear view of the action happening about 20 meters away. Still wearing her fluorescent jacket, she knelt down at least 15 meters in front of the bulldozer, and began waving her arms and shouting, just as activists had successfully done dozens of times that day. The bulldozer continued driving forward and headed straight for Rachel. When it got so close that it was moving the earth beneath her, she climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer. She got so high onto it that she was in clear view of the cab of the bulldozer. Her head and upper torso were above the bulldozer’s blade, and the bulldozer driver and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, the driver continued forward, which caused her to fall back, out of view of the diver. He continued forward, and she tried to scoot back, but was quickly pulled underneath the bulldozer. We ran towards him, and waved our arms and shouted; one activist with the megaphone. But the bulldozer driver continued forward, until Rachel was all the way underneath the central section of the bulldozer. At this point, it was more than clear that she was nowhere but underneath the bulldozer, there was simply nowhere else she could have been, as she had not appeared on either side of the bulldozer, and could not have stayed in front of it that long without being crushed. Despite the obviousness of her position, the bulldozer began to reverse, without lifting its blade, and drug the blade over her body again. He continued to reverse until he was on the boarder strip, about 100 meters away, and left her crushed body in the sand.

Three activists ran to her and began administering first-responder medical treatment. Her body was in a mangled position, her face was very bloody, and her skin was turning blue. She said, “My back is broken!” but nothing else. The three activists took care to keep her neck straight, and turned her to her side in case of vomit or blood from the mouth. They continued to talk to her in attempts to keep her conscience.

The other bulldozer, which had been working about 30 meters to the west, abandoned work and withdrew to the boarder strip, and parked about 10 meters to the west of the murderous bulldozer. The tank came over to see what had happened, and I shouted that they had run over our friend, and that she may die. The soldiers in the tank never spoke to us, asked us any questions or offered us any help. They simply talked on their radio and then withdrew to the border strip and parked between the two bulldozers.

One activist ran to the doctor’s house less than 5 meters away to ask for his help and to call an ambulance. I also called Mohamed, a close Palestinian friend, and asked him to call an ambulance, as our Orange-network phones cannot dial the emergency number. An activist used the megaphone to inform the soldiers that a Palestinian ambulance was on the way, and demanded that they not shoot at the paramedics. He also told them that a Palestinian doctor is present and is going to come out into the area. The doctor came out and suggested that we move her, but it was clear that we could not. He used cotton swabs to dab some of the blood coming from her face.

The ambulance arrived around 5pm. The Palestinian paramedics came out onto the boarder strip and put her onto a stretcher. We worked as human shields for them, and tried to make it difficult for the tank to fire at the ambulance workers. While the paramedics loaded her onto a stretcher, one activist suggested that I get a good picture that clearly showed the serial number of the bulldozer responsible. I walked all the way out to the boarder strip, passed the tank, and began photographing the bulldozer. The tank soldier hollered something at me, and the bulldozer began driving in such a way as to prevent me from seeing the side of the bulldozer that displayed the serial number, or the side windows from which one might see the operators. Despite their clever maneuvering, I managed to get several pictures of the serial number, but the tinted windows on the machine did not allow me to get a decent photo of the driver. By the time I’d finished, the paramedics were carrying Rachel on a stretcher to the ambulance. She was still breathing at this point, and her eyes were open, but she was clearly in a great deal of pain. Tom, Alice, Will, and Greg piled into the ambulance with Rachel and the paramedics and Richard, Nick and I followed them in a taxi.

I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the bulldozer operators saw her and knew she was there. She was using a well established tactic, which had been used dozens of times that day. The operators knew that we would not move, and knew that if they continued forward they could injure us, as they almost did a couple times that day. They knew she was there over 15 meters in advance, and even when they were very close to her, they could see her briefly as she was elevated on the rubble. In the US I work construction, and even drive heavy equipment, and know that any heavy equipment operator knows how rubble works, and that it will pull under anything near the earth being pushed. I also know that we’re trained to stop completely if there’s ever any question of a problem in a situation, as movement will only make it worse. When she was clearly underneath the bulldozer, he should not have moved, or at least lifted the bulldozer blade. He didn’t lift the blade until a couple meters after he’d drug it over her again, even though it is standard procedure to lift the blade when backing. I believe he knew she was there, intentionally drove over her, and then intentionally backed over her again.

I the undersigned Joseph Carr, USA Passport number 086728745, born 25 April, 1981, give this statement under oath for the lawyer Raji Sourani.

I, the undersigned lawyer Raji Sourani, have taken this statement on 30 March, 2003.

AFFIDAVIT: William George Hewitt

I the undersigned, William George Hewitt, United States passport number 075351518, born on February 10 1978 in Chowchilla California U.S.A., am giving this statement about the homicide of the late Rachel Corrie on the 16th of March 2003 under oath to the advocate Raji Sourani.

I came to the Palestinian occupied territories on January 26, 2003 for several reasons. First, I wanted to witness the oppression and human rights violations caused by the Israeli occupation, which is illegal according to the 4th Geneva Convention and international law. Second, I wanted to show solidarity with the people of Palestine by living with them, learning from them, and helping them with the daily problems caused by occupation. Third, I wanted to counteract the racism of the U.S. Bush administration’s “War on Terror” by actually visiting an Arabic nation and learning about Arabic/Islamic culture, then communicating with people in the U.S. about my experiences. Fourth, I knew that the U.S. government would soon attack Iraq. I believe that this war is unnecessary, morally wrong, and totally unjustified; being present and explaining this to people in Palestine is a step toward peace and understanding because they see that Americans are actually ordinary people with the same needs as Palestinians or Iraqis. Simultaneously, because of my firsthand experience as a witness to the occupation of Palestine, I can speak with authority to Americans at home about the terrible consequences of war, invasion, and occupation. I am an independent artist, writer and activist; I chose to work with the International Solidarity movement while in Rafah. I also spent time in Israel, talking to Israeli people.

On the afternoon of March 16, 2003, I was working with my friends who are also volunteers with the International Solidarity movement. Alice, Nick, and I were helping a Palestinian family in the Hy Salaam area of Rafah to build a covered porch in front of their house. Alice and Nick went out to salvage nails from nearby buildings whose occupants were forced to move due to frequent shooting by Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) soldiers and the constant threat of home demolition. The returned and told me that bulldozers where in the area. This happened at approximately 2:00 PM. All three of us went out to witness and investigate. I saw two armored bulldozers and 1 small tank, the kind with machine guns poking through slits in its turret, rather than a large cannon. The bulldozers moved perpendicular to the road which runs along the border from Hy Salaam area to Brazil area. One bulldozer knocked over a telephone pole; another crushed several olive trees. All the time they bulldozed every speck of grass or other vegetation between the road where the IOF tanks drive and the Palestinian road on the edge of Rafah. There is no apparent strategic reason for this; obviously resistance fighters cannot hide behind one foot tall blades of grass. Bulldozers approached perilously close to electric lines along the road, and destroyed a section of this road. Twice in the past I have acted as a human shield in this area by standing between tanks and workers from the Rafah Municipal Water Department, so that the water workers could repair pipes without being shot at. A major break in the city water line only 200 meters from where the bulldozers were working at 2:30 on this day was caused by a tank invading Rafah in January. I know people in this neighborhood and have slept at two different housed within 1/2 kilometer of where the bulldozers were working. These bulldozers are designed for demolishing buildings. I have seen them crushing the houses of Palestinian families, and have spoken to many people whose houses have been destroyed. These are poor people, and it is very difficult for them to find new houses. Thus I and the other ISM activists were seriously concerned that the bulldozers would attack homes in this neighborhood.

Soon after seeing the bulldozers and tank, Alice, Nick, and I called the other internationals in our group. They arrived quickly. During the next 3 hours we used nonviolent direct action to interfere with the work of the bulldozers as they attacked a vacant house (whose occupants were driven away by IOF shooting and the threat of home demolition), demolished several trees, a partially constructed house, a shed and part of a wall around an olive orchard, and threatened the homes of two families. We blocked the bulldozers by standing and sitting in front of them. We used a large banner and a megaphone to clearly communicate our presence and identity to the IOF soldiers. Rachel Corrie and Richard both wore bright orange high visibility jackets with reflective tape on them. For most of the duration of these events, Rachel spoke to the bulldozer drivers through the megaphone, telling them that we were internationals, our nations of citizenship, that we were unarmed and no threat to them. Obviously the drivers saw us; they responded by honking horns and even returning gestures from the bulldozer cabs. Several times ISM volunteers sat down in front of bulldozers, and each time the driver stopped before injuring them.

I submit this as evidence that the driver of the bulldozer who killed Rachel Corrie knew beyond a shadow of doubt that she was directly in front of the machine he operated: at one point a Nick sat down in front of a bulldozer, and the driver wedged him between the dirt pushed by the bulldozer’s blade and the concrete foundation of an unfinished building. The driver stopped; if he had continued forward only a few feet, Nick would have been seriously injured or killed. Likewise, I sat down in front of a bulldozer while it was 20 meters away. I did not move as it approached. The driver knocked me over and pushed me in front of the blade for a few meters, then partially buried me between a mound of dirt and a pile of razor and barbed wire. I was trapped and unable to move. This was quite terrifying. I needed two people to remove my backpack, which was buried deeper than my body, and unhook the wire from my clothes in order to escape. I am absolutely certain that the driver knew I was there and that he saw me even while I was being pushed in front of the bulldozer after being knocked over by it, because, as in the case of Nick, the driver decided to stop short of killing me. If he had driven only one foot farther forward, I would have been crushed into the razor wire and seriously injured if not killed. How would the driver know the exact moment to stop, if he could not see me on the ground in front of the bulldozer as he pushed me?

The bulldozers and their commander in the tank were already familiar with our behavior and tactics when Rachel was crushed, because they had been interacting with us for over two hours, and we repeatedly did the same thing that Rachel did: stand, then sit in front of the advancing machine.

Rachel was mortally injured at approximately 5:00 PM. When this happened, I was walking toward her with Alice. Both of us saw her standing in front of Doctor Samir’s house. She was wearing a bright orange jacket with reflective strips on it. She was gesturing at a bulldozer driver. When I first noticed her there, she was about twenty meters away from and directly in front of the bulldozer. As it continued to advance at a slow, steady pace, she sat down in front of it. She sat down, the driver pushed a churning wave of dirt up to her knees, and as the dirt began to touch her she tried to move backward, and then tried to stand up. Then she lost her balance as the dirt began to engulf her. She was lifted up onto the moving dirt, and then she fell. Her feet were caught under the bulldozer blade. The driver continued to advance slowly and drove completely over her, then reversed and backed away. I was only about five meters away when the driver began to crush her legs. The entire time I was walking toward Rachel. The only reason I did not dive in front of the bulldozer myself and risk being killed as well in order to help Rachel was because I did not believe until I actually saw her legs disappear under the steel blade while she struggled to escape that the driver would not stop! As the driver drove over her, I passed directly in front of the bulldozer, waving my arms and yelling, “Don’t kill my friend!” After he drove over her completely, I was on the opposite side of the bulldozer, close enough to take two steps and touch its driveshaft. I continued to wave and yell at the driver, “You are killing my friend!”

It is clear that the driver saw Rachel well before she sat down; he could not have see her leave his field of vision at any point, since she remained directly in front of the machine. He approached slowly; he could not have seen her disappear except under the blade. Because of my and Nick’s experience of nearly being crushed, and of the driver stopping at the last moment, I am convinced that it is possible for the driver to see the point where the bulldozer blade contacts the ground. In addition, she was lifted right before she fell and was crushed; this made her even more visible.

Rachel died in Al Najar hospital from the injured she sustained at this site, only 20 minutes later.

I, the undersigned, William George Hewitt, give this statement before the advocate Raji Sourani.

signature

This statement has been given before me, lawyer Raji Sourani, in my office at the Palestinian Center For Human Rights (PCHR), and in my presence on March 31, 2003, by William Hewitt. After I had given him legal warning to tell the truth, he signed this statement in the full capacity of his free and independent will.

Lawyer signature