Tuesday 6 May 2003

Israelis fire on parents of injured British peace activist

The parents of a British peace activist who was shot in the head by Israeli troops came under fire themselves as they travelled to the spot where their son was critically injured.

Anthony and Jocelyn Hurndall were in a British diplomatic convoy entering the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip when Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint fired a shot, which passed narrowly over the top of their vehicles.

The incident on Saturday afternoon took place despite the Israeli Army being given notice of the journey on at least three occasions – the last minutes before the convoy arrived.

The Foreign Office said last night that an explanation had been requested from the Israeli authorities for the warning shot, which was fired as the two armoured Range Rovers entered the Abu Khouli checkpoint on the edge of Rafah at about 1pm.

Concerns were being raised yesterday over the conduct of Israeli soldiers in the south of the Gaza Strip. The incident in which the Hurndalls were fired at comes not only after their son was shot in Rafah, but after two other Westerners were killed in the city.

The Hurndalls, whose eldest son, Tom, is in a coma in an Israeli hospital after he was shot three weeks ago while trying to reach two Palestinian children, were being accompanied by Tom's youngest brother and the military and political attachés to the British embassy in Tel Aviv.

Mrs Hurndall, a schoolteacher from Tufnell Park, north London, said: "We were passing through the checkpoint very, very slowly when there was the sound of a bullet – it was like the sound of a large stone coming off the car.

"What struck me was the ludicrousness of the situation. Here we were, the parents and brother of someone who has been wounded by Israeli Defence Forces and who then fire a warning shot over our car for no apparent reason.

"It was a measure of the insanity that can take hold here." The single shot was fired from one of two watchtowers that stand above the checkpoint, causing the two British cars, identifiable by their white diplomatic plates, to come to an immediate halt.

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