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U.K. activist dies 9 months after Israeli shooting

A British activist who had been in a coma since being shot by Israeli troops while acting as a so-called human shield has died nine months after the shooting, his family said on Wednesday.
Image: Thomas Hurndall
British peace activist Thomas Hurndall was shot in the head by Israeli troops, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, last April. Khalil Hamra / AP file
/ Source: Reuters

A British activist who had been in a coma since being shot by Israeli troops while acting as a so-called human shield has died nine months after the shooting, his family said on Wednesday.

Tom Hurndall, 22, died late on Tuesday in the London hospital where he had been lying clinically dead after being shot in the head by Israeli forces on April 11 last year.

“Tom died last night just before 8 p.m.,” his mother, Jocelyn Hurndall, said in a statement.

Hurndall’s sister, Sophie, said Tom had contracted pneumonia in the past few days. She said his death was a relief for the family, who had seen him lying in a coma for nine months.

“It is definitely a sense of relief,” she told BBC radio. “But obviously there is great sadness, because it’s a time when we have to finally accept that we’re not going to have Tom back.”

A statement on the Web site of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the pro-Palestinian peace group Hurndall was working with when he was shot, said his parents had called a vigil in central London on Wednesday to mark his death.

The Israeli army arrested a soldier late last year for the shooting and charged him on Monday with grievous bodily harm in the case.

Israeli sources said that with Hurndall’s death the charges against the soldier were likely to be upgraded to manslaughter.

** FILE ** A British peace activist going only by the name Alice cries for help as she holds her hand over the headwound of British peace activist Thomas Hurndall, who had been shot in the head moments earlier, at the start of a protest, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip Friday, April 11, 2003. Hurndall died late Tuesday Jan. 13, 2004 at a hospital in London his family said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)Khalil Hamra / AP

The activist’s supporters say he was wearing a bright orange jacket and helping Palestinian children cross a street under fire in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah when he was shot.

The soldier initially maintained he had opened fire on a man armed with a pistol, but later “admitted to firing in proximity to an unarmed civilian as a deterrent,” according to the Israeli military. It said the army viewed the matter with “utmost severity.”

An American ISM activist, Rachel Corrie, was crushed to death last March when she tried to stop an Israeli army bulldozer demolishing a Palestinian house in Rafah. The army said she was hit by a concrete slab that slid down a mound of earth and that the bulldozer driver did not see her.