The Death of Tom Hurndall: Another Human Shield Is Killed by Israeli. by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)
A Sandbox in the Crossfire: The Last Report from Rafah before Tom's Murder by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)
April 23, 2003
The Death of Tom Hurndall:
Another Human Shield is Killed by Israeli Soldiers
By the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)
YEBNA, RAFAH (April 11, 2003) -- Between 4:30 and 5:00 PM today, Israeli snipers shot another ISM activist in the head. Tom Hurndall from Manchester, Britain is currently in critical condition in a helicopter on his way from Europa Hospital in Khan Younis to a hospital in Bir Sheva. He is 21-years-old.
| Tom Hurndall moments before he was shot and killed by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier.|
[Hurndall was subsequently declared "brain dead." His parents arrived at his bedside only to be faced with the horrible decision of determining at what point to disconnect their son from the hospital's life-support system. On April 5, Israeli troops shot a US volunteer named Brian Avery in the head. Avery, grotesquely disfigured, now faces months of reconstructive surgery. On March 16, an Israeli military bulldozer crushed and killed another US volunteer, 23-year-old Rachel Corrie of Olympia, Washington.]
According to Laura, the activists were shot at while protecting some children from Israeli gunfire. Tom was in plain view of the sniper towers and was wearing a bright orange fluorescent jacket with reflective stripes. The ISM activists and many children were in the process of leaving the area.
Sniper fire from the tower was hitting the wall close beside the children, who were afraid to move. Tom was attempting to bring them to safety when he was shot. There was no shooting or resistance coming from the Palestinian side at all.
According to Laura, the plan had been to put up a tent where a tank parks itself every night in front of a mosque. The soldiers in the tank shoot down the street, terrorizing people who come to pray. The group had discovered earlier that the tank was already in place and had begun firing into the air. The Palestinian organizers felt the plan had become unworkeable, and the action was abandoned.
Laura and two Palestinians decided to assess the situation. She soon realized that the tank had moved. It was now possible to set up the tent. The Israeli snipers in the eastern tower began shooting in Laura's path. When they arrived at the roadblock, the rest of the group was already there. The snipers began firing again: this time at the wall of the building next to the activists. As a result, the group began the process of leaving.
Tom saw a little boy in an open space, clearly visible to the tower. Tom went to get him out of the way. He looked back and saw two more girls whom he also went to retrieve. As he went to get them, he was shot in the back of the head. He fell to the ground in a pool of blood.
For years, the Israeli army has killed Palestinian civilians with impunity. Now they are targeting unarmed international peace activists and human rights workers. On March 16, Rachel Corrie was run over and killed by a bulldozer operator in Rafah while trying to prevent home demolitions. On April 5, in Jenin, Brian Avery was shot in the face by an APC in an unprovoked attack on a clearly unarmed group of internationals. Six months ago in Jenin, Caoimhe Butterly was shot in the leg and UN official Ian Hook was murdered.
We ask the world community to stand up and demand that Israel honor international agreements protecting civilians, whether they are internationals or Palestinians, and hold Israel accountable for these crimes against humanity. And we demand an end to the illegal and brutal occupation that these murders defend.
For more information contact: Tom, ISM Media Coordinator, Beit Sahour, Occupied Palestine, 02-277-4602 067-862-439 052-360-241
A Sandbox in the Crossfire:
The Last Report from Rafah before Tom's Murder
By the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)
RAFAH -- This four-story building in Jibne, a refugee camp right on the Egyptian border, belongs to the Jaber family. It contains around 35 people, four families with loads of children. It is located right across from two Israeli security towers and an area where an Israeli tank often sits. The house has been riddled with bullets, indeed there are bullet holes in walls as many as three rooms into the house, and virtually every room is occupied by family members. The children show me arm-loads of bullet shells, shrapnel and rocket casings that they've gathered from their house.
|Children in Rafah engage in a futile gesture at defending their homes. Credit: Mohammed (wwwrafah.vze.com).|
"Every day they shoot," said Mahmud, a 16-year-old boy who frequently has to help the older men patch the holes in the wall. The holes are anywhere between the size of a golf-ball to a bowling ball, depending on which kind of ammunition the Israeli soldiers chose to fire. I ask him about bulldozers, and he points to the ground to show me how close they have come. Indeed, they've destroyed their chicken coup and other garden space that is within meters of the house.
The family never knows when the Israeli military may come for their house, but they don't think a bulldozer could take it down. This size of house usually requires explosives, meaning Israeli soldiers will likely enter the house, remove the people and lay large bombs. This is why it is especially important for us to have a presence here: Perhaps we can ensure some more humane treatment of the family if and when they are forced to randomly evacuate in the middle of the night.
Yesterday morning, Israeli snipers shot two brothers in the house, 15-year-old Rushdee and 19-year-old Mustafa. The windows have been covered with plastic to conceal movement, but when a light is on in the room, a good sniper can hit a figure.
There are no militant connections to this house or these boys, so the Israeli snipers must have just been bored. Rushdee was hit in the neck and is in the hospital in serious condition. Mustafa was hit in the leg and seems to be OK.
In response to this and the other violence this family has been forced to face, 10 internationals from America, England, Scotland, and Italy staged a demonstration on the roof of their house. It started around 5 pm, and went on for over an hour. We hung banners on the house and shouted at the towers and tank with megephones. We told them who we are, and not to shoot at us or this family. One banner reads "Internationals Live Here" and the other "Internationals in the Area."
Every night, an Israeli tank parks near this house. The soldiers then use this position to shoot into the houses all down the street, effectively preventing anyone from moving in the area, or getting a good night's sleep.
Palestinians have offered to help us set up a tent in the tank's parking spot, which they will then, along with us, occupy and effectively resist the tank's violence. We will be pitching the tent -- a large, yellow, canvas-and-metal structure like the ones given by the UN to refugees who've lost their houses to Israeli aggression -- around 4pm. We will have at least two internationals occupy it from sundown to sun-up, ready at all times to stand off to the tank. It will remain there for as long as it needs to.
The family speaks hardly any English, and Laura and I hardly any Arabic, but we get along just fine. The children especially love us -- and my guitar. We play for hours each night until they pass out around 9pm. Monsuer (11), the oldest boy, and I have a special connection. He's remarkably creative, and has taken to numerous craft projects. He's constructed a cardboard drum set to go along with my guitar and makes use of glass cups and metal objects to improve the diversity of his rhythm. He's also been making random things out of popsicle sticks and paint.
The oldest girl, Esma (13) is a remarkable artist and draws interpretive portraits like something I'd see in a modern art museum. Nahed is clearly the matriarch of the house. She is phenomenally strong-willed and her children have picked it up, leading to constant show-downs.
Their house is equipped with a large sandbox. An Israeli tank fired a large shell, like the kind used for blowing up other tanks, at their house and it has left a hole in the floor and wall the size of a small car. The children play with the sand and broken tile, and often use this hole as a sort of back door.
Outside their new entrance is an empty field. It used to contain more than 30 orange trees, but Israeli bulldozers destroyed them all -- a common attack on these people's livelihood.
A topic of conversation has been the United State's War on Iraq. I am incredibly defensive about this since I feel some responsibility for it, as it's my government with my taxes and my country potentially benefiting from the war.
They corrected me quickly, and said that the US soldiers aren't bad and shouldn't have to die; that it is Bush and other big leaders that are the problem. It couldn't be more humbling to have these people, who face such constant violence from foreign soldiers, make the distinction between soldiers and their leaders. What an incredible amount of humanity they've been able to maintain. I can only learn from their example.
'They Spare Themselves Nothing'
By Billie Moskona-Lerman / Ma'ariv
The small ISM commune is conducted by strict rules. They stand as human shields at electricity installations and water wells, collect testimonies, and take footage on small video cameras. They face the hostile lumps of steel with megaphones and try to establish dialogue with the soldiers inside.
These seven people are taking up an enormous load in this chaos. But who is to take care of these young people themselves, who sleep two hours per night and had not yet time to come to terms with having intimately witnessed Rachel's death?
They spare themselves nothing. They insisted on wiping the blood from Rachel's face, touching her broken back, taking the body to the morgue with their own hands, wrapping it with shrouds, and accompanying it in the ambulance to Tel-Aiv.
Carol Moskovitz, 61, joined the group with her husband Gordon a week ago. They are artists, they live in Canada, and have been travelling the world for the past three months. When they heard of what happened to Rachel, they decided to cut their trip short and come to offer their help. They act like parents to the younger members of the group: preparing tea, asking questions, trying to address the shock and disbelief that Rachel's death left behind.
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