Activist Shot in Gaza Declared Brain Dead
Apr. 11, 2003
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ A 21-year-old British peace activist was critically wounded Friday as he tried to get two children out of the line of fire in the Gaza Strip, witnesses said.
Thomas Hurndall suffered a head injury and was declared brain dead after arriving at Rafah Hospital, said Dr. Ali Musa.
Witnesses said Israeli troops firing from a tank struck Hurndall as he other activists in a pro-Palestinian group approached an army position on the edge of a Gaza refugee camp.
The Israeli army had no comment about Friday's shooting but said it would investigate.
Hurndall of Manchester, England, was the second activist wounded in a week. A third member of the group, the International Solidarity Movement, was killed a month ago while trying to stop an Israeli army bulldozer.
Palestinians have long complained that Israeli troops are using excessive force against civilians, and the mounting casualties among foreigners were expected to draw renewed attention to Israeli army practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel has said Palestinian gunmen often use civilians as shields and thus endanger them.
Friday's incident began when about a dozen members of the peace movement, including foreigners and Palestinians, walked toward Israeli tanks on the outskirts of the Rafah refugee camp, near the border with Egypt, said Khalil Hamra, a photographer on assignment for The Associated Press.
The activists wanted to set up a protest tent on the road in an attempt to block incursions into the camp, said Hamra and Khalil Abdullah, a Palestinian who works with the group but who is not a member.
Along the way, the protesters were joined by several children, the witnesses said. When the group was about 200 yards away from three tanks, soldiers opened fire from a tank-mounted machine gun, the witnesses said.
Hurndall and another foreign activist tried to get two children out of the line of fire, Hamra and Abdullah said. ``Thomas (Hurndall) grabbed one of their hands and as soon as he did that a tank fired at him, hitting him in the head,'' Hamra said.
The photographer said the children were not throwing rocks at the troops and that he saw nothing that would have provoked the troops.
Rafah has been a flashpoint of clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians.
A few blocks from where Friday's shooting occurred, American activist Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed March 16 while trying to stop an Israeli army bulldozer.
Witnesses said the bulldozer ran her over and then backed up. The army said the driver did not see her and that her death was an accident. Corrie, a student in Olympia, Wash., was the first member of the group to be killed in 30 months of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.
Last week, Bryan Avery, 24, from Albuquerque, N.M., was shot in the face while walking with a fellow activist in the West Bank town of Jenin. Witnesses said he was wounded by army fire. The army said it was firing at gunmen in the area and was not aware it hit Avery.
Also Friday, the army said it had eased checkpoint restrictions in the West Bank town of Jericho after local police turned in a stock of weapons that included explosives and an anti-tank rocket.
Palestinian Cabinet member Saeb Erekat disputed the claim, saying he hadn't heard of a weapons handover and that checkpoint restrictions has been relaxed for months.
In other developments:
_Israeli human rights activists vowed to fight a military decision to banish to the Gaza Strip a Palestinian man who has been in jail for eight months, accused of crimes for which he was never charged or tried.
Dalia Kerstein, head of the Jerusalem-based Center for the Rights of the Individual, said Saadi, from the West Bank town of Jenin, had been imprisoned without trial since last June.
_ An army publication said the Israeli military is building a mock-up of a security fence between the West Bank and Israel. Work on the 180-mile fence itself began a year ago, but only a few miles have been completed.
The weekly ``Bamahane'' said the mock-up, at a base in central Israel, is a replica of the security fence, which is designed to keep Palestinian attackers out of Israel. It said the mock-up will cost $150,000 and be used for training army units that will patrol the fence.