A 21-year-old Briton was pronounced clinically dead after being hit in the head and critically wounded by Israeli sniper fire in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, eyewitnesses and Palestinian medical sources told AFP.
Thomas Hurndall was volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group of pro-Palestinian activists who engage in non-violent action to protect civilians in the West Bank and Gaza, they said.
A colleague who witnessed the incident said he was trying to pull two children out of danger with a group of other foreign activists and Palestinian civilians when shots were fired from an army watchtower some 100 metres away.
British peace activist Thomas Hurndall sits on the floor of a home in Rafah, minutes before he left to participate in a protest at which he suffered a gunshot wound to the head, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, April 11, 2003. Hurndall, age 21, from Manchester, 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. He was declared brain dead after arrival at a Gaza hospital. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Doctors at Rafah hospital said the young man was pronounced clinically dead shortly after he was admitted. He was later airlifted to a hospital in the southern Israeli town of Beersheva, members of the ISM team in Rafah said.
A spokesman for the British Embassy told AFP his family had been notified.
"He was trying to pull two girls out of danger when he was hit in the head by a bullet," eyewitness and British ISM colleague Rafael Cohen, 37, told AFP.
Cohen, who was standing 15 metres (yards) away when the shooting occured, said Israeli troops were firing over the heads of a group of children playing on a mound of earth and Thomas, who was dressed in a fluorescent ISM jacket, had gone to pull them down.
"At first they were firing several metres over the children's heads but it was getting very, very dangerous so Tom went to help them. He was at ground level when they shot him directly in the head," he said, alleging the troops lowered their aim and deliberately targeted him.
Thomas arrived in Rafah on Sunday after spending several days training in the West Bank, Cohen said. Before arriving in the Palestinian territories, he had been in Iraq acting as a human shield, after which he spent some time in Jordan.
The army would not comment on the incident.
It was the third such incident in the past four weeks in which a foreign peace activist was injured or killed during Israeli military operations.
Last Saturday, two foreign ISM activists were wounded by Israeli gunfire, one of them seriously, during clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
A 24-year-old American, Barry Avery, suffered a serious gunshot wound to the face, while a Danish man, Lasse Schmidt, 35, was wounded in the leg by shrapnel, medics said.
And last month, Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old US national also volunteering with the ISM, was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah as she was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian house.
The Israeli army said it was an "accident" and has yet to reveal the result of its investigation into her death.
Copyright 2003 AFP