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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 April, 2003, 03:49 GMT 04:49 UK
Briton critical after Israel shooting
Thomas Hurndall before being injured
Mr Hurndall was reportedly shot at a refugee camp in Rafah
A British peace activist shot and wounded during a demonstration in the Gaza Strip is in a critical condition.

Thomas Hurndall was shot in the head after Israeli soldiers opened fire from a tank-mounted machine-gun.

It is thought the 22-year-old member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM) was trying to protect civilians under gunfire from troops.

Mr Hurndall, from Manchester, is believed to be brain-dead but still breathing.

The Foreign Office confirmed his family had been informed of the incident.

The ISM organises demonstrations against Israeli army demolitions of Palestinian homes.

He was standing in front of the women and kids to protect them while they were moving
Tom Wallace,
International Solidarity Movement
Mr Hurndall is believed to have been among a group of nine activists who had to abandon their planned protest at a refugee camp in Rafah when shooting started.

Tom Wallace, of the ISM, said the incident happened in a residential area where local children had come to watch the activists' protest, as they often did.

He said shots were being fired over the protesters' heads from one of two Israeli watch-towers nearby.

"The activists and all the women and kids decided to move away from the area," said Mr Wallace.

"They were moving very slowly and he was standing in front of the women and kids to protect them while they were moving.

He was trying to pull two girls out of danger when he was hit in the head by a bullet
Rafael Cohen,
International Solidarity Movement

"They were trying to evacuate the area and that is when he was shot."

Briton Rafael Cohen, also of the ISM, said: "He was trying to pull two girls out of danger when he was hit in the head by a bullet.

"At first they were firing several metres over the children's heads but it was getting very, very dangerous so Tom went to help them.

"He was at ground level when they shot him directly in the head."

Mr Cohen, 37, said Mr Hurndall had been wearing a fluorescent jacket clearly labelled "ISM".

The BBC's James Rodgers in Gaza said the ISM group frequently act as human shields to try to prevent the Israeli army demolishing Palestinian houses - which the Israelis claim double as firing positions by Palestinian fighters.

Peace activists

The Israeli army has so far made no comment on the shooting.

It follows a series of incidents involving foreign peace activists in the Palestinian territories:

  • 5 April, a 24-year-old American, Brian Avery, suffered a serious gunshot wound to the face and a Dane, 35-year-old Lasse Schmidt, was wounded in the leg by shrapnel during clashes in the West Bank city of Jenin.

  • 16 March, American activist Rachel Corrie, 23, was run over and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip. The army said its driver had not seen her in time to stop.

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