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Attacks on International Peace Workers

Soldier who shot Briton admits lying

Israeli on trial for manslaughter says peace activist was unarmed.

By Chris McGreal
UK Guardian
December 16, 2004

The Israeli soldier on trial for killing the British peace activist Tom Hurndall in the Gaza Strip has admitted he was lying when he said his victim was carrying a gun, but said he was under orders to open fire even on unarmed people. Sergeant Idier Wahid Taysir is charged with manslaughter for shooting Mr Hurndall, 22, as he tried to shelter children on the edge of Rafah from Israeli army gunfire in April last year. He died of his injuries in January.

The sergeant told the military court that after shooting Mr Hurndall he had reported it to his commander.

“I told him that I did what I’m supposed to; anyone who enters a firing zone must be taken out. [The commander] always says this,” he said.

The army has already been accused of carrying out an unwritten policy of shooting unarmed civilians who enter a closed security zone in Rafah, which led to the killing of a 13-year-old girl.

Sgt Taysir told the army investigators he had opened fire at Mr Hurndall because the Briton was on the edge of the security zone, carrying a weapon and wearing camouflage clothing.

In fact, he had not entered the closed zone, had no gun and was wearing a bright orange jacket.

The prosecutor asked the sergeant if Mr Hurndall had a weapon.

Sgt Taysir replied: “No. That’s the truth.”

“So you gave a false report to the company commander?” the prosecutor asked.

“I did not give a false report. He might have had a weapon under his clothing. People fire freely there. The [Israeli army] fires freely in Rafah.”

The prosecutor continued: “But you told him that you saw a weapon?”

“Right.”

“So you lied?”

“I said it.”

The prosecutor then asked: “After that, you also reported that the man fired in the air and at you, right? Why did you report that he fired at you?”

The sergeant replied: “Because I had already fired without getting approval [from the company commander]. Everything was under pressure and a result of fear. They tell us all the time to fire; that there is approval. All the troops [in Rafah] fire without approval at anyone who crosses a red line.”

Sgt Taysir has also been charged with obstruction of justice.

He told the court that he did not know details of the army’s rules of engagement. “I don’t know them. No one ever explained anything to me about these documents.”

The military investigation initially cleared Sgt Taysir but was reopened under pressure from Mr Hurndall’s family and the Foreign Office after the army’s account of the shooting was shown to be false.

Mr Hurndall’s mother, Jocelyn, welcomed the soldier’s testimony, saying it confirmed the family’s belief that Sgt Taysir was not a rogue element but operating under a military policy that permitted the shooting of unarmed civilians.

“We remain extremely concerned about the culture in which the soldier was functioning,” she said. “It seems from what he’s said that he was following orders, that he was doing what he was told to do and what other soldiers are told to do.”

But Mrs Hurndall said that it was difficult to discover exactly what the orders were, because the court sessions on the rules of engagement were held in secret. “The problem is we don’t have access to the closed-door sessions at which the rules of engagement are discussed,” she said.

“The Israelis say it is because we are beyond their jurisdiction and not governed by their secrecy laws. They know we will speak out publicly and they can’t prosecute us.”

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Rachel Corrie
Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer.

1979 - 2003
On the 16 March, 2003, 23-year-old Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer. more

Thomas Hurndall
Tom Hurndall was killed by an Israeli sniper.

1981 - 2004
21-year-old Tom Hurndall was shot in the head by an Israeli sniper on April 11, 2003. He died nine months later. more

Videos & Multimedia

Documentary – ISM Rafah - Solidarity Under Occupation

Nonviolent Protest in Bil'in, 4/17/09; Bassem Abu Rahme is Killed

3/20/2004 demonstration in Karbatha, Palestine – activists shot

View footage from 2/6/2004 demonstration at Georgetown University, USA

View footage from 12/26/2003 demonstration in Mas’ha, West Bank—Israeli activist, Gil Ne’amati, is shot

View footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Ramallah, West Bank

View footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Zbuba, West Bank

MORE footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Zbuba, West Bank

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Additional Resources

Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance

Charter of the United Nations

Amnesty Report – Fear for Safety

Play – My Name is Rachel Corrie

Flyer – Rachel Corrie Cards

Poster – Rachel Corrie, 1979-2003

Poster – Tom Hurndall, 21-year-old killed

Booklet – Rachel’s Letters | en español

Congressional Resolution Expressing sympathy for the loss of Rachel Corrie – Not Yet Passed

Merchandise Commemorating Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall

Organizations

Americans for Middle East Understanding

End the Occupation Coalition

Al Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

International Solidarity Movement

Secular Peace Groups

American Muslims for Palestine

A Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)

More Religious Peace Groups

RachelCorrie.org

TomHurndall.co.uk

International Solidarity Movement

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