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Remembering Tom Hurndall, British Photographer who was Killed by an Israeli Sniper as he Carried Palestinian Children to Safety

January 13th 2004 marks the day a British photography student, Tom Hurndall, was killed after being shot in the head by an Israeli sniper while he was volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Gaza, Occupied Palestine. 

Hurndall succumbed to his injuries nine months after he was shot and had slipped into a coma. Hurndall was also an activist against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. His photos would capture both harrowing and inspirational moments he witnessed while residing with local families in Iraq, in a Jordanian refugee camp and in the Occupied Gaza Strip.  

In 2003, Hurndall even joined the anti-war movement against the U.S invasion of Iraq, before moving to Jordan to assist in medical aid for Iraqi refugees. According to sources, this was when he learnt about the ISM, an organization which seeks to advocate non-violent protest against the Israeli army in the West Bank and Gaza. 

On April 6th 2003, Tom reportedly moved to Rafah city in the Gaza Strip in a quest to document the squalid living conditions of the Palestinians. He then emailed the images he captured of the IDF and Palestinans back to his family, captioning it as “No one could say I wasn’t seeing what needs to be seen now,” he wrote.

He even spoke of the killing of 23-year-old Rachel Corrie who was crushed underneath an Israeli armored bulldozer while trying to halt the demolition of a Palestinian home. “I wonder how few or many people heard it on the news and just counted it as another death, just another number…” Hurndall quoted. 

On April 11, alongside his ISM comrades, he sought to set up a peace tent on a road to Rafah to “impede IDF ank patrols.” This was when the Israeli snipers shot the activists with children in the line of fire too.

A witness to the onslaught stated “He sprinted to where the children were, picked one up and carried her to safety. When he went to collect a second child, he was shot in the head by an IDF soldier, Taysir Al-Hayb.”

Tom Hurndall was unarmed when he was shot by the IDF, wearing a bright orange jacket which distinguished him as an international volunteer. Notably, Rachel Corrie wore that too when she was killed. 

According to other ISM activists,“There was no shooting or resistance coming from the Palestinian side at all.” Despite the ambulance arriving quickly, reports suggest that the ambulance was delayed by the “Israelis” for two hours. 

Hurndall was declared clinically dead, and was later evacuated to London where his brain damage was seen as irreversible. He died on Jan. 13, 2004 at 22 years old.

The IDF claimed that Hurndall was shot accidentally and accused ISM for using their activists as human shields. This was then dismissed by the number of witnesses present at the scene, who insisted that Hurndall was deliberately targeted while he tried to protect Palestinian children.

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