Early release of Tom Hurndall’s killer symptom of wider Israeli crimes


UPDATED, 8th September: Tom’s Killer was released this morning. The Hurndall family was not informed by any representative of the Israeli government. The British Foreign Office did contact Jocelyn this morning, but not before the news had reached her via ISM London. We are re-publishing our press release from July as our statement today.


20th July 2010

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) condemns the early release from prison of the Israeli soldier that murdered photography student and ISM volunteer Tom Hurndall in Gaza in 2003. The Israeli press yesterday reported that Taysir Hayb will be released three years early from an already short eight-year sentence.

His murder was only a symptom of a much wider culture of impunity in the Israeli army. This early release serves to reinforce the notion that the Israeli army can continue to commit war crimes against Palestinians without fear of serious consequences.

Tom’s mother Jocelyn Hurndall told ISM London that: “this reduced sentence comes at a time when the world is becoming more sceptical about Israel’s investigations into its own actions. It’s a reminder of Israel’s disregard for international law and opinion.”

When Hayb was sentenced in 2005, human rights activist, Raphael Cohen, who was with Tom on the day of the shooting said, “On the very street where Tom was shot, two children had been shot just days before. This is why he and the rest of the group went to that spot, to protest against the shooting of children as they played outside their homes. There has never been any investigation into the shootings of those children.”

To this day, there has still been no investigation of these deaths or of the thousands of other Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli soldiers. Only last month in Jerusalem Ziad Joulani, 41, a Palestinian shopkeeper and father of three with no criminal record or history of political activism, was killed when Israeli police opened fire as he got out of his car. [1] His killing is not being investigated.

Tom’s family had to fight hard to achieve even the eight-year manslaughter conviction that they won in 2005, against a system of Israeli obfuscation and lies, and an indifferent British government. In a statement yesterday the Foreign Office merely said: “We note the court’s decision to release Taysir Hayb and recognise the grief this decision will cause to the Hurndall family,” describing the deliberate act of murder as “a tragedy”.

Tom’s father Anthony hit back in the Guardian today, condemning this as a “weak response” by the British government, and demanding to meet with ministers. He said: “I would like them to say that this is not just a tragedy but that the Israeli government is directly responsibile for Tom’s death and should acknowledge this and take steps to put matters right by changing policies to ensure that civilians are not shot or killed indiscriminately.”

Israel did not even bother to inform the Hurndall family in advance of the news reaching the Israeli press, and Tom’s sister Sophie only learnt the news when ISM London contacted her yesterday.

Hayb shot Tom in the forehead with a high velocity bullet using a rifle with a telescopic sight, while he attempted to rescue Palestinian children in Gaza from Israeli gunfire. According to an Observer report from the 2005 trial, Hayb was “an award-winning marksman”. [2] Tom never regained consciousness, dying nine months later in a London hospital at the age of 22.

Jewish nurse and peace activist Alice Coy, who saw Tom shot, said Hayb was only part of “a culture of impunity in which generations of Israelis are taught that Arabs hate them and are subhuman. They are then given guns and they know they can get away with killing Palestinians. The occupation and aggression of Zionist policy is harming ordinary Israelis as well as Palestinians.”

Amnesty International says that: “The shocking truth is that Israeli soldiers kill civilians in Gaza with near-total impunity, week in week out” [3]

B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, report that “From the beginning of the [second] intifada, on 29 September 2000, to the end of 2008 (not including Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, which began on 27 December), [Israeli] security forces killed more than 2,200 Palestinians who were not taking part in the hostilities at the time they were killed. However, a Military Police investigation was opened in only 287 cases of suspected illegal shooting by security forces. This number includes investigations into cases in which civilians were wounded. Only 33 of these investigations resulted in the filing of indictments” [4]

Israeli human rights group Yesh Din clarifies that of these, Haib is the only soldier to have been convicted for an offence causing death: “From the beginning of the second intifada until the end of 2009, Courts-Martial convicted soldiers of offenses connected with the deaths of only four civilians: three Palestinians and one British national. One soldier was convicted of manslaughter, and he was the only one convicted of an offense of causing death. Four other soldiers were convicted of offenses of negligence.” [5]

For more information:

Alice Coy, UK: +44 7828 540512

ISM Media Office, Ramallah: +972 59 760 6276 or +972 2 241 0604

ISM London: +44 7913 067 189


“Family of Palestinian driver killed by police demands investigation”. LA Times online, 14th June 2010 http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/06/israel-family-of-palestinian-driver-killed-by-police-demands-investigation.html

“Parents fight to learn why Israeli sniper shot their son”. Observer, 30th January 2005 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/jan/30/israel

“Hurndall case: Israeli military forces still kill civilians with ‘near-total impunity’” Amnesty International statement, 7th October 2008 http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=17897

“Military Police investigations during the al-Aqsa intifada” B’Tselem http://www.btselem.org/English/Accountability/Investigatin_of_Complaints.asp

IDF Investigations of IDF offenses against Palestinians” [PDF] Yesh Din, Februrary 2010

REVISION, 21st July: The initial version of this press release erroneously stated that Ziad Joulani had been shot “last week”. In fact he was killed on the 14th of June, as stated in the text of our reference. This online version has been revised to read “last month”. The final paragraph with the Yesh Din figures on convictions was also added.