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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 17:49 GMT
Israeli soldier held over shot Briton
Thomas Hurndall before being injured
Mr Hurndall remains in a vegetative state since the April shooting
Israel has arrested a soldier in connection with a shooting that left a British peace activist in a coma.

Tom Hurndall, 22, was shot in the head while observing the Israeli army in Gaza in April, leaving him in a permanent vegetative state.

The soldier initially said he returned fire at a man armed with a pistol but later changed his story, the army said.

Israel first announced an investigation into the shooting in October.

The soldier was appearing before military authorities on Wednesday to have his custody extended. It is not known when he was arrested.

The Israeli army said that under interrogation he had admitted firing a shot near an unarmed civilian.

This is one first step to getting a truthful outcome
Jocelyn Hurndall
When its investigation concludes a decision will be made over what charges to bring.

Eyewitnesses are said to have seen Mr Hurndall pulling two Palestinian children to safety in Rafah.

His mother Jocelyn told BBC News 24 she was "pleased" at the arrest, adding: "This is one first step to getting a truthful outcome.

"We knew all along that Tom was shot in cold blood. We have far too many witness statements.

Brain damage

"There was no Palestinian fire and Tom was wearing a bright day-glo jacket as he was rescuing the children."

Major Sharon Feingold, of the Israeli Defence Force, said the IDF's investigation was responsible for the soldier admitting that he lied.

"He has admitted that his version he gave a few months back was false. Initially he claimed he returned fire... [now he has] admitted shooting in the proximity of an unarmed civilian in order to deter him.

She said the soldier had been detained for a further seven days to allow the investigation to be completed, although she refused to say what he could be charged with.

British cameraman James Miller was shot dead in the same area on 2 May this year, also by Israeli soldiers.

In March, an Israeli bulldozer crushed US activist Rachel Corrie to death in Rafah as she tried to protest against the demolition of a house.

Mr Hurndall's family, from Tufnell Park, north London, want an independent investigation into his shooting, saying any Israeli army investigation will be a whitewash.

Critics point to the Israeli army's conclusion that Ms Corrie's death was an accident.

Doctors expect Mr Hurndall will never recover from the severe brain damage he suffered.

The Manchester Metropolitan University student is in a deep coma in intensive care at the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability in Putney, south-west London.

Shot activist's family fly to Israel
12 Apr 03  |  Manchester
Israeli troops 'wound Briton'
11 Apr 03  |  Middle East
Activist who died for conviction
17 Mar 03  |  Middle East

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