ISM Rafah: Statement on the shooting of Thomas Hurndall

Above: Tom “Tab” Hurndall and another ISM activist, shortly before he was shot. (ISM)

On 11 April 2003, 10 members of the International Solidarity Movement in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Palestine, were planning to set up a tent in an area that an Israeli tank often uses to shoot into the houses and streets of a refugee camp called Yibna. Several Palestinian community members had initiated the project, gathered the supplies, and accompanied us to the area at around 4:30PM.

Above: The Israeli army watchtower in Yibna, Rafah from which the ISM activists believe Tom was shot, 10 April 2003. (Tom Hurndall/ISM)

When we arrived to the area, the tank was already there and had been shooting into the street. A nearby Israeli security tower had also joined in and was firing repeated, single, sniper shots. An American international was accompanied by two Palestinians to go closer and get a better look at the area, and was wearing our trademarked fluorescent orange jacket with reflective stripes.

The tank and tower fired live rounds at the ground and buildings on both sides of her, making her movement difficult. She quickly returned to the rest of the group, that was positioned behind a large roadblock, but in view of the security tower. We made a consensus decision to call off the action and return the next day, as the Palestinians were uncomfortable with the gunfire.

At about 4:45PM, shots began to hit the buildings and street around us, and we became concerned for some children who were playing on the roadblock near us. Many had scattered, but a few were left. Thomas Hurndall, a 21-year-old activist from London, UK noticed that one small boy was still on the mound and under fire. He quickly lifted the boy and moved him behind the roadblock.

Tom was about to leave, when he noticed two small girls still in front of the roadblock and in the line of fire. He was moving to help them when an Israeli soldier in the tower, about 300 meters in front of him, shot a high calibre sniper bullet directly into his head. He was wearing an orange fluorescent jacket with reflective stripes, and was in full body view of the tower. The British Embassy had been informed of his presence, who had in turn informed the Israeli military.

Palestinians lifted his body and moved him to the pavement about 5 meters behind the roadblock. Two trained medics administered first-responder medical treatment, and used safety pads to try and stop the bleeding. Palestinians then lifted him into a nearby taxi and rushed him to Al-Najjar Hospital. On the way, they took care to try and stop the bleeding.

At around 5:15PM, he was transferred in an ambulance to Europa Hospital in Khanunis. It takes about 30 minutes for an ambulance to get there as there is an Israeli road block on the main road. Without this obstruction it would only take 7 minutes.

After much negotiation with the British Embassy and the Israeli military, Tom was taken to a nearby Israeli settlement from which he was taken by helicopter to Saroka Hospital in B’er Sheva, Israel. He is currently on full life support and in a head cast. Several of his friends have joined his bedside, and his parents are on the way.

Related Links

  • International Solidarity Movement
  • ISM: Israeli soldier shoots British ISM activist Tom Hurndall in Gaza (11 April 2003)
  • “Not again”: Joe Smith writes about the shooting of Tom Harndall
  • Protecting Palestinian families in Rafah (11 April 2003)
  • The Brian Avery shooting: When will we realise that there can’t be this many “accidents”? (5 April 2003)
  • Photo story: Israeli bulldozer driver murders American peace activist (16 March 2003)
  • Increased targeting of International Solidarity Movement (16 March 2003)