The Israeli soldier convicted of killing British human rights activist Tom Hurndall, was released from jail on Wednesday, after a special committee granted him an early release. According to Israeli sources Taysir Hayb was released after a military committee decided that he have proven good conduct and that he ‘no longer poses any danger“.
Hurndall, 21, was documenting and taking part in a nonviolent protest organized by the International Solidarity Movement in Rafah city, southern Gaza Strip, on April 2003. A group of Palestinian children got caught in the line of Israeli military watch tower fire. When Hurndall rushed to help the children, Hayb shot him in the head.
Hurndall went into coma and was moved to Palestinian hospital in Gaza, and shortly after to the Israeli Soroka hospital in the Negev.
As Tom remained in coma, his parents demanded to transfer him to London, where he died on January 14, of 2004. During the court investigation Hayb lied and said he was shooting based on orders, which the army denied, and convicted him of manslaughter. Hayb was sentenced to eight years jail time; he served six and half years.
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which Hurndall was volunteering with during his time in Gaza, condemned the Israeli military decision to release Hayb.
“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.” ISM press release read on Wednesday.
Hayb was jailed in 2005 for manslaughter, obstruction of justice and giving false testimony. He has appealed unsuccessfully for his sentence to be commuted three times before.
The committee’s decision to grant early release came despite warnings from Israel’s Military Advocate General that it would hurt relations between Israel and the UK.
Tom’s mother Jocelyn Hurndall told ISM London that: “this reduced sentence comes at a time when the world is becoming more skeptical 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.”
Hurndall is not the only ISM activist to be killed by the Israeli military. Two weeks before Hurnadall, Rachel Corrie, an American woman, was killed when an Israeli bulldozer ran over her while she was attempting to prevent it from destroying a Palestinian home in Gaza on March 16, 2003.
Brian Avery, another ISM activist, was shot in the face by Israeli troops in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, in April of the same year. Avery survived but he sustained serious wounds that deformed his face and required him to under go several plastic surgeries.
The Israeli Human Rights organization (B’Tselem), reports that “From the 29 September 2000, to the end of 2008 (not including Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, which began on 27 December of 2008), Israeli military and security forces killed about 2,200 Palestinians who were not taking part in hostilities at the time they were killed.
However B’Tselem say a Military Police investigation was opened in only 287 cases of suspected illegal shooting by troops. This number includes investigations into cases in which civilians were wounded. Only 33 of these investigations resulted in the filing of indictments, B’Tselem reports.
The Palestine News Network, (PNN) reported that during the Cast Lead Operation which lasted for 18 days, 1500 Palestinians were killed 6000 injured by Israeli fire. During the operation 16 Israelis were killed, 14 of them were soldiers.
Another Israeli human rights group Yesh Din says Hayb is the only Israeli soldier to have been convicted for an offense causing death since the start of the intifada (uprising in English) back in September 2000, PNN said.