LONDON - A British peace activist, who had been in a coma and brain dead since being shot by an Israeli soldier at a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza strip in April last year, has died, his family said.
"Tom died last night" (Tuesday) at the specialist Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney, southwest London, after a bout of pneumonia, his mother Jocelyn Hurndall said.
Tom Hurndall, 22, an activist with the Palestinian-led International Solidarity Movement, was hit in the head and critically wounded by sniper fire in the Rafah refugee camp on April 11.
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.
He was subsequently pronounced clinically dead and airlifted to London, where he remained in a vegetative state in hospital.
Palestinian medics and witnesses said Hurndall was trying to pull two Palestinian children out of danger when shots were deliberately fired from a nearby Israeli army watchtower.
The Israeli military announced December 31 that one of its soldiers -- who it did not identify -- had been arrested in connection with the shooting of the Manchester university photography student.
It said the soldier had initially claimed that he returned fire at a man armed with a pistol.
"However, following an intensive investigation by the military police of the Southern Command, the soldier admitted to shooting in proximity of an unarmed civilian in order to deter him," it added.
In Jerusalem, an Israeli army spokesman told AFP on Wednesday that the soldier was indicted on six counts on Monday, and that following Hurndall's death it was possible that the charge sheet would be modified.
Foreign Office Minister Baroness Elizabeth Symons said she was "saddened" by the news of Hurndall's death.
"We will continue to urge the Israeli authorities to pursue their investigations thoroughly," she said. "We have been encouraged by recent progress."
Speaking on BBC radio, Hurndall's sister Sophie Hurndall said the family felt "a great sadness", but also "a sense of relief" that his suffering was finally over.
But she held out hope that justice would eventually be done.
"The army has been, the whole way along with this, trying to get itself off the hook and its soldiers," she said.
"In my mind, there is absolutely no question that it was absolutely premeditated.
"We know that he (the soldier) was using a telescopic lens. We know that he's lied consistently. We know that other soldiers lie for him. We know that he knew that Tom was wearing an orange jacket. And he's confessed that he knew Tom was unarmed at the time."
Carl Arrindell, a spokesman for the Hurndalls, said: "The family are absolutely determined to pursue this soldier."
"They want to make sure Tom's killer is prosecuted for murder and not for manslaughter," he said. "The family will be pressing its lawyers to ensure that the appropriate charge of murder is applied in this case."
Last May a British television cameraman James Miller, 34, was shot and killed by Israeli troops in the Rafah area.
In March 2003, an Israeli bulldozer crushed and killed Rachel Corrie, 23, an American member of the International Solidarity Movement, in Rafah as she tried to protest against the demolition of a house.
On its website, the International Solidarity Movement describes itself as "a Palestinian-led movement of Palestinian and international activists working to raise awareness of the struggle for Palestinian freedom and an end to Israeli occupation."
It announced a vigil outside Downing Street, the residence of Prime Minister Tony Blair, for 5:30 pm (1730 GMT) on Wednesday.
Copyright 2004 AFP