Driver speaks 15 feet from Corries

HAIFA, ISRAEL - Rachel Corrie's parents got their first chance Thursday to hear from the man who drove the vehicle that killed her in 2003 as she tried to prevent a Palestinian home from being razed.

But they were denied a chance to confront him face-to-face in an Israeli courtroom, dashing a central goal of their civil lawsuit against Israel’s Defense Ministry. The unidentified former soldier was shielded behind a partition, and his testimony about the events leading up to 23-year-old Corrie’s death floated into the hall over a microphone.

Corrie was a former student at The Evergreen State College .

“I wish I could see the whole human being,” Cindy Corrie said before the testimony began, her voice shaking. She and her husband, Craig, traveled from their home in Olympia to hear his testimony.

Their daughter was killed while trying to block the bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home in Gaza. An army investigation concluded she was partially hidden behind a dirt mound and ruled her death an accident. The driver and his commander were not charged.

The activist’s parents filed their civil suit in 2005 and petitioned Israeli courts for a chance to look the bulldozer driver in the eye. That request was rejected.

“The Israeli government and the Israeli military are hiding behind the screens,” Cindy Corrie said after Thursday’s testimony got under way.

A lawyer for Israel, Irit Kalman, said the driver was behind a screen because “we want soldiers to feel free to give a real testimony.”

The driver was questioned for more than four hours, often saying he did not remember what happened.

Asked about the deadly incident, the driver said, “I started pushing with the bulldozer and I felt a heavier-than-usual load, so I started reversing.” He said he had no recollection of Corrie because there were many people at the site.

The Corries were seated between translators about 15 feet from the driver.

“I haven’t heard one moment of remorse, and to me, that’s one of the saddest things,” Cindy Corrie said.