Military police this week arrested and questioned the Israel Defense Forces soldier suspected of shooting British civilian Tom Hurndall in Rafah last April.
Hurndall suffered severe brain damage as a result of the shooting and lies in a vegetative state in England. His family has begun proceedings allowing him to eventually be disconnected from respiratory and other life-support systems.
Hurndall, 22, a student from Manchester and a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was wounded by IDF gunfire directed at Palestinians in the Yabne neighborhood of the Rafah refugee camp an April 11, 2003. Other ISM activists on the scene at the time of the incident charged that IDF snipers starting shooting at Palestinians - including children - in the street without any provocation.
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.
In England, Hurndall's mother welcomed the arrest and said it must be made clear to Israeli soldiers that they were answerable for their actions and could not shoot with impunity.
The soldier suspected of shooting Hurndall, whose remand the Southern Command military tribunal extended Wednesday by seven days, initially claimed that he returned fire after an armed Palestinian shot at him. He later "admitted to firing in proximity to an unarmed civilian as a deterrent," said a release from the army.
The IDF has updated the British Embassy in Israel on developments in the case.
Hurndall's mother Jocelyn welcomed the arrest but said she was still dubious about the outcome of the military inquiry. "I remain skeptical... but I'm hopeful," she told Sky news. "I think this is the first positive step.
"We wish the rules of engagement in Israel to be looked at extremely seriously," she said. "We wish every Israeli soldier to get the message very clearly that they cannot shoot with impunity, that they are answerable for their actions."
The IDF has previously agreed only to carry out an internal investigation with the soldier's unit, the Bedouin patrol battalion.
The Hurndalls said they had received the findings of the unit inquiry but that the findings presented by Israeli military authorities until now indicated a childish and unsubstantial investigation.
The investigation into the circumstances of the incident commenced six months after the shooting, on the directive of Judge Advocate General head Major General Menachem Finkelstein.
© Copyright 2003 Haaretz