The parents of a British peace activist who was shot in the head by Israeli troops came under fire themselves as they traveled to the spot where their son was critically injured.
Anthony and Jocelyn Hurndall were in a British diplomatic convoy entering the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip when Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint fired a shot, which passed narrowly over the top of their vehicles.
The incident on Saturday afternoon took place despite the Israeli Army being given notice of the journey on at least three occasions – the last minutes before the convoy arrived.
The Foreign Office said last night that an explanation had been requested from the Israeli authorities for the warning shot, which was fired as the two armored Range Rovers entered the Abu Khouli checkpoint on the edge of Rafah at about 1pm.
Concerns were being raised yesterday over the conduct of Israeli soldiers in the south of the Gaza Strip. The incident in which the Hurndalls were fired at comes not only after their son was shot in Rafah, but after two other Westerners were killed in the city.
The parents Anthony (C) and Jocelyn (R) of Tom Hurndall, a British peace activist who was seriously injured by the Israeli army, visit the location where their son was hit at Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, April 14, 2003. Photo by Suhaib Salem/Reuters
The Hurndalls, whose eldest son, Tom, is in a coma in an Israeli hospital after he was shot three weeks ago while trying to reach two Palestinian children, were being accompanied by Tom's youngest brother and the military and political attachés to the British embassy in Tel Aviv.
Mrs Hurndall, a schoolteacher from Tufnell Park, north London, said: "We were passing through the checkpoint very, very slowly when there was the sound of a bullet – it was like the sound of a large stone coming off the car.
"What struck me was the ludicrousness of the situation. Here we were, the parents and brother of someone who has been wounded by Israeli Defense Forces and who then fire a warning shot over our car for no apparent reason.
"It was a measure of the insanity that can take hold here." The single shot was fired from one of two watchtowers that stand above the checkpoint, causing the two British cars, identifiable by their white diplomatic plates, to come to an immediate halt.
Not until the Defense attaché, Colonel Tom Fitzalan-Howard, had stepped from the car with his hands in the air to talk with the soldiers inside the tower was the convoy able to proceed.
Notice that the cars would be passing through Abu Khouli was given at least three times – in the days before the trip, just as it was setting off and 10 minutes before it arrived.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "A single warning shot was fired as our staff were crossing the checkpoint. No-one was injured but the incident has been raised with the Israeli Defense Forces."
It is understood that an Israeli Army captain at the checkpoint later told members of the convoy that the shot had been fired because the vehicles had not stopped. There was no order to do so.
The journey by the Hurndall family to Rafah, where they met peace activists from the International Solidarity Movement who had been working with Tom, was made as they launched an appeal to raise £20,000 to bring him back to Britain by air ambulance.
The 21-year-old student, who was studying photography at Manchester Metropolitan University, was hit by a high-velocity bullet fired by an Israeli sniper as he moved towards two frightened Palestinian children in daylight.