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ISM: Israeli soldier shoots British ISM activist Tom Hurndall in Gaza

Press Release, International Solidarity Movement, 11 April 2003

Between 4:30 and 5:00 PM today Israeli snipers shot another ISM activist in the head. Tom Hurndall from Manchester Britain is currently in critical condition in a helicopter on his way from Europa Hospital in Khan Younis to a hospital in Bir Sheva.[*] He is 22 years old.

Above: A British peace activist going only by the name Alice cries for help as she holds her hand over the headwound of British peace activist Thomas Hurndall, who had been shot in the head moments earlier, at the start of a protest, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, April 11, 2003. Hurndall, age 21, from Machester, England, had been standing between Israeli troops and Palestinian children when Israeli soldiers opened fire, according to a fellow activist from the International Solidarity Movement who witnessed the scene.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

According to Laura, the activists were being shot at while protecting some children from Israeli gunfire. Tom was in plain view of the sniper towers and was wearing a bright orange fluorescent jacket with reflective stripes. The nine ISM activists and many children were in the process of leaving the area. Sniper fire from the tower was hitting the wall close beside the children, who were afraid to move. Tom was attempting to bring them to safety when he was shot. There was no shooting or resistance coming from the Palestinian side at all.

According to Laura, the plan had been to put up a tent where a tank parks itself every night in front of a Mosque. The soldiers in the tank shoot down the street, terrorizing people who come to pray. The group had discovered earlier that the tank was already in place and had begun firing into the air. The Palestinian organizers felt the plan had become unworkeable, and the action was abandoned.

Laura and two Palestinians decided to go assess the situation. She soon realized that the tank had moved from where it had been. It was now possible to set up the tent. She spoke to Tom D by phone and they decided to meet at the roadblock. The Israeli snipers in the eastern tower began shooting in Laura's path.

When they arrived at the roadblock, the rest of the group was already there. The snipers began firing again: this time at the wall of the building next to the activists. As a result, the group began the process of leaving.

Tom saw a little boy in an open space, clearly visible to the tower. Tom went to get him out of the way. He looked back and saw two more girls whom he also went to retrieve. As he went to get them, he was shot in the back of the head. He fell to the ground in a pool of blood. The ambulance arrived quickly, after about two minutes.

For years the Israeli army has killed Palestinian civilians with impunity. Now they are targeting unarmed international peace activists and human rights workers. On March 16, Rachel Corrie was run over and killed by a bulldozer operator in Rafah while trying to prevent home demolitions. On April 5, in Jenin, Brian Avery was shot in the face by an APC in an unprovoked attack on a clearly unarmed group of internationals. Six months ago in Jenin, Caoimhe Butterly was shot in the leg and UN official Ian Hook was murdered.

We ask the world community to stand up and demand that Israel honor international agreements protecting civilians, whether they are internationals or Palestinians, and hold Israel accountable for these crimes against humanity. And we demand an end to the illegal and brutal occupation that these murders defend.

*EI UPDATE: As of 10:20AM US CST on Saturday 12 April 2003, Tom Hurndall was in critical condition in an Israeli hospital, after being moved. His friends are by his bedside and his parents are flying to the country.

In a Daily Telegraph report from 13 April 2003, the article's writers asserted: "His condition last night was still serious...Doctors at the Saroka Hospital, in Beer Sheva, say he has severe damage to the left side of his brain but is off the critical list."

Earlier media reports had described him as "brain-dead but still breathing" (BBC, 12 April 2003). On 11 April 2003, the Guardian quoted director of the Rafah hospital, Ali Musa, as saying "that Mr Handoll was 'clinically dead' after sustaining brain damage."

In a 13 April 2003 article in The Independent on Sunday, writers Andrew Johnson and Justin Huggler stated that "During the interview...a doctor treating Tom at the hospital in Israel phoned to say he had come out of an operation that had stemmed the bleeding from the wound and 'cleared up debris'. His condition was stable but it was too early to say if he would be left brain damaged."

Sky News reported on 13 April that "Staff at Soroka Hospital said Mr Hurndall's condition had stabilised and he was not brain dead, as suggested in earlier reports. Nurse Vardit Livent said: 'He is stable and not brain dead. He is still unconscious and we don't know how he will recover and what his condition will be.'"

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