By Rory McCarthy (for original article click here)
Five years after their son was fatally shot by an Israeli soldier in Gaza, the parents of the British student Tom Hurndall are still pressing the Israeli government for compensation and a formal apology as they try to build a criminal case against senior Israeli army officers.
Hurndall, a 22-year-old photography student, was shot five years ago today during a demonstration in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
This week his parents, Jocelyn and Anthony Hurndall, wrote to the Israeli ambassador in London, Ron Prosor, asking for an urgent meeting. As well as compensation and an apology, the family are still trying to gather sufficient evidence to bring war crimes charges in Britain against several Israeli army officers.
The family has not revealed the amount of compensation they are seeking. A report in the Israeli press last week put the amount at £500,000, although the correct figure is believed to be higher.
In their letter to the ambassador, Hurndall’s parents wrote: “We claim that the denial to the family of fair and just compensation amounts to supporting a policy of indifference and disregard for … innocent civilians. This can lead to an international criminal responsibility for whoever acknowledges such an attitude.”
They said they had faced a “wall of deceit and fabrication over the shooting” before the trial and were now facing “a further debilitating and prolonged battle to get meaningful compensation”.
It is thought that the Israeli government argues that only the soldier convicted for the shooting was responsible for the death, not any of his senior commanders. Yet the family still hopes to secure the arrest and trial of a number of senior officers. “There is no question that this is very much still on the cards,” Anthony Hurndall said.
On April 11 2003 Tom Hurndall attended a demonstration in Rafah organised by a group called the International Solidarity Movement. Shots were fired from an Israeli army watchtower and Hurndall, who wore a fluorescent jacket, was helping to pull a group of Palestinian children to safety when he was shot in the head. He suffered a severe brain injury and died nine months later in hospital in London.
At first the Israeli military denied responsibility. However, in August 2005 an Israeli soldier, Taysir Heib, was sentenced to eight years jail for manslaughter. The following year a British inquest jury ruled that the soldier had shot Hurndall “with the intention of killing him”.
“In the last five years we have had nothing but barriers and obstruction from the Israelis,” said Jocelyn Hurndall. She said the family hoped to negotiate a settlement in private with the Israeli authorities. So far they have received around £8,000 to cover his repatriation – the first cheque sent for this sum bounced – and then last year a payment of £50,000.
Late last year, after negotiations failed to bring an agreement, they began a civil claim in the Israeli courts. Arye Mekel, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, said: “This issue is under legal negotiations between the family and the ministry of defence. These contacts are ongoing.”