Family reacts to soldier's confession

The family of a British peace activist shot dead by an Israeli soldier has said the latest investigation confirms their belief that occupation forces in Palestine are under orders to shoot unarmed civilians.

    Sergeant Taysir: There is always approval to fire in Rafah

    Speaking from her London home, the late Tom Hurndall's sister, Sophie, told Aljazeera.net on Thursday that the 20-year-old Israeli sergeant, who was initially cleared of manslaughter, had now admitted to a military court he lied and his victim was in fact unarmed.

    Welcoming the soldier's confession, Hurndall said she did not believe Sergeant Idier Taysir's testimony was exceptional, but rather indicative of a military policy that permitted the shooting of unarmed civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.

    "The fact that over 4000 Palestinian civilians have been killed, and 79,000 seriously injured over the last few years shows that there are no acceptable guidelines governing Israeli Defence Force behaviour.

    "It seems from what he [Taysir] said that he was following orders, that he was doing what he was told to do and what other soldiers are told to do," she said.

    Case details

    Charged with manslaughter, Taysir told a military court on Wednesday that he had lied when we said Tom Hurndall was carrying a gun and that he had been under orders to fire even on unarmed people. 

    Tom Hurndall was helping children
    escape when he was shot himself

    He originally claimed Hurndall was wearing camaflouge and carrying a rifle. The young British activist was in fact wearing a bright orange jacket and carrying a camera.

    "I told him [commanding officer] that I did what I'm supposed to; anyone who enters a firing zone must be taken out. [The commander] always says this," Taysir said.

    The army has already been accused of carrying out an undeclared policy of shooting unarmed civilians who enter a closed security zone in Rafah. Taysir also pointed out that "people fire freely there. The [Israeli army] fires freely in Rafah".

    Well-known practice

    When the prosecutor asked the army sergeant why he had lied about not getting approval to open fire, Taysir answered: "They tell us all the time to fire; that there is approval. All the troops fire without approval at anyone who crosses a red line."

    Also charged with obstruction of justice, he told the court that he did not know details of the army's rules of engagement. "I don't know them. No one ever explained anything to me about these documents."

    Unable to read Hebrew, the army sergeant said he did not believe others in his unit had any more knowledge about "rules of engagement" than he did.

    The military investigation initially cleared Taysir but was reopened under pressure from Hurndall's family and the British Foreign Office after the army's account of the shooting was shown to be false.

    Similar case

    The newly reopened case comes just weeks after the Israeli army cleared a commander serving in the southern Gaza town of Rafah of a similar "incident".

    Al-Hams's autopsy revealed five
    bullets to the head, 15 to the body

    A company commander, whose identity was never revealed, shot 13-year-old Iman al-Hams as she was on her way to school. A few minutes later he riddled her body and head with 15 to 20 bullets "to make sure she was dead".

    Medics carrying out an autopsy on 13-year-old Iman al-Hams found five bullets in her head and 15 bullets throughout the rest of her body.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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