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]

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