Israeli soldier convicted of killing British activist in Gaza Strip

Monday, June 27, 2005

A former Israeli soldier has been convicted by an Israeli court of the manslaughter of a British student who was acting as a human shield in the Gaza Strip in April 2003.

Ex-sergeant Wahid Taysir, serving with the Beduin Unit in Rafah, hit Tom Hurndall with a single shot to the head from an army watchtower, using a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight. Hurndall had been guiding children away from an area of shooting in the Palestinian town of Rafah.

Twenty-two year old Hurndall fell into a coma and died of his injuries nine months later in a London hospital. Taysir's defence lawyers had tried to claim during the trial that Hurndall's death was due to malpractice by British doctors.

The Israeli army had initially declined to carry out an investigation into the shooting. After the British government started their own enquiry and cited Taysir as having fired the fatal shot, the Israeli army made the decision to prosecute Taysir, who is no longer serving in the army.

The verdict took more than an hour to read out in a small courtroom in southern Israel. As well as being found guilty of manslaughter, Taysir was found guilty of obtaining false testimony, submitting false testimony, obstruction of justice, and improper conduct.

Taysir's sentence will be decided next week. Another soldier was also jailed for lying to protect Taysir.

Hurndall's father Anthony was one of 50 people in the courtroom. Afterwards he welcomed the verdict, but claimed that the Israeli army acted with impunity too often. The Israeli government insist that there is no policy that tolerates shooting civilians.

Taysir is an Israeli Beduin Arab. He served in the Israeli army as a volunteer.