An Israeli military court on Monday found Israeli soldier Taysir Al-Heib guilty of the manslaughter of British peace Activist Tom Hurndall in Gaza Strip in April 2003.

The court also found al-Heib guilty of obstruction of justice and giving false testimony.

The court found that the defendant had shot Hurndall with a sniper’s rifle, using a telescopic sight, and that al-Heib had given a ‘confused and even pathetic’ version of events to the court.

The court referred to a confession by the defendant, in which he said he wanted to teach Hurndall a lesson for entering a claimed forbidden zone. Al-Heib claimed he aimed 10 centimeters to the left of Hurndall’s head to frighten him, but had unintentionally shot him.

‘From that moment, Sergeant al-Heib began a broad campaign of lies and falsehoods to throw off the expected investigation and to exonerate himself of any guilt,’ according to the verdict.

Hurndall’s father and brother were planning to attend the court, however, the Israeli authorities denied Hurndall’s brother entry to the country for “security reasons” and only his father Anthony was present in the court this morning when the verdict was read out.

“We’re concerned there is a policy which seems to be prevalent in Gaza that [Israeli soldiers] feel able to shoot civilians without any accountability,” Anthony Hurndall said.

Israel to rule on British Activist’s death

An Israeli military court is due to give its verdict in the case of a soldier accused of the manslaughter of a British student, the BBC reported on Monday.

Tom Hurndall, 22, from north London, was shot while he was working as a photographer and activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), in the Palestinian town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip in April, 2003. He died on January 14, 2004, in a London hospital, after nine months in a coma.

Witnesses say he was trying to escort children away from gunfire when he was hit in the head by a single shot fired from an Israeli army watchtower.

Mr. Hurndall was wearing a florescent jacket indicating that he was an unarmed international.  Activists in the area, including Hurndall, wore these jackets for several days before he was shot.

At first, the Israeli army claimed the soldier opened fire at a “gunman” wearing a camouflage uniform, and the state said was satisfied with a preliminary military investigation. Under pressure from Mr Hurndall’s family and the British government, the army later ordered a full criminal investigation.

It went on to indict the sniper who fired from the watchtower.

Now, after a year-long military trial, an Israeli military court is to say whether or not the soldier is guilty of Tom Hurndall’s manslaughter.

It is very rare for such a case to get this far, the BBC said. Hundreds of civilians, most of them Palestinians, have been killed by the Israeli army during the course of fighting in recent years, according to human rights organizations. But the army has carried out only a small number of investigations into wrongful killings, and it has only ever indicted and convicted a handful of soldiers.

Rachel Corrie, a 23-yearold American, was killed in Rafah a month before Hurndall, when an Israeli bulldozer ran over her as she tried to protect a Palestinian house from being demolished.  Corrie, from Olympia, Washington, was also an ISM activist.

The ISM website says, “The ISM is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles.”

The movement was founded by a group of, Palestinian and International peace activists in December 2000, following the start of the second Intifada, to promote nonviolence as a method to resist the occupation.