Mother fights Israel for answers

The mother of a British peace activist shot in the head by Israeli soldiers says she will continue her fight to find justice for her son.

Tom Hurndall was recording the work of peace activists in Gaza
Tom Hurndall was recording the work of peace activists in Gaza

Tom Hurndall, 22, a photographer from London was recording the work of a peace group in Rafah, Gaza when he came under fire from Israeli soldiers.

He was shot on 11 April after going to help a Palestinian child when Israeli soldiers opened fire in the direction of the boy.

Tom is severely brain damaged and lies in a London hospital where he is in a vegetative state and isn’t expected to recover.

Jocelyn Hurndall, spoke to on the week that the family marked Tom’s 22nd birthday. She says that the entire family feels devastated by what has happened to Tom but they will keep pushing for answers from the Israeli government on how and why Tom was targeted.

“We are following a long legal process to find out how Tom was injured. I want the Israeli soldiers responsible for harming Tom to know that they can’t shoot people with impunity. We want to pave the way for Palestinian people to have some legal redress when they are shot and injured by the Israeli army just like my son was”.

The family have hired a leading human rights lawyer Imran Khan to represent Tom and will be meeting Baroness Simmons, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, in the next few weeks to discuss Tom’s case.


Jocelyn Hurndall heard about her son’s injuries when her daughter, Sophie received a phone call from a British newspaper.

Tom enjoyed adventure and travel
Tom enjoyed adventure and travel

“A journalist called the house and told Sophie the news. At that moment the world stopped, time stopped for me. I was distressed and knew that I needed to be with Tom so I arranged to travel out to Israel and see my son.”

She arrived in Israel two days after Tom was shot and made her way to the Saroka Hospital in Beer Sheva, Israel, where Tom had been taken after he was shot.

“I will never forget that moment, I walked into the room where Tom was – he looked very, very bad and it was obvious that he was in a distressed state. There was a young Israeli woman who was sitting in the room with Tom, she turned to me and said ‘I’m so sorry for my country’ and then started crying”.


After spending two hours in the hospital with their son, Jocelyn and her husband traveled on to Rafah, to see the spot where Tom had come under fire from the Israeli army.

“Being in Rafah, it was like Tom had been attacked all over again, seeing where he had been shot and where he had fallen. I was shocked and angry and emotional.

“To this day I can’t believe how Palestinians are forced to live in Rafah, yet they showed us kindness and love and people shed tears with us and told us that they were praying for Tom.”

Jocelyn visited the child whom Tom was trying to protect from Israeli gunfire when he was hit by a bullet himself.

“It was very important for me to see the little boy, his family and I sat and talked for a while about our lives and about Tom. The family have a very special place in my heart and I am always thinking of them.”


The Hurndall family have been busy raising awareness and publicity about Tom’s case and about the situation in Palestine.

They have shared platforms at anti-war demonstrations and  have given talks about their experiences of battling the Israeli government to find justice for Tom.

“I’m ashamed to say that I knew very little about the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice before I was effected by it directly. Since Tom was shot, I have come to know many people in the country, and am working with like-minded people to raise awareness of what’s really going on in Gaza.”

‘I’m ashamed to say that I knew very little about the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice before I was effected by it directly”

Jocelyn Hurndall

Throughout the interview Jocelyn refers to her son in the past tense.

“Yes, Tom is alive, but to me what I see now lying in the hospital is not the Tom that I gave birth to, he is there in physical presence only.

“I am very proud of my son, he was passionate about life and he was passionate about diversity. Tom found it very easy to be at home wherever he went in the world, he had a unique spirit.”

In the week Tom’s family marked his twenty-second birthday, solutions to ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine and an end to the cycle of violence seem as far removed as ever.

 “I want Israelis and Palestinians to start a dialogue with one another and to listen to each other, I want them not to be afraid of one another. I want both Israelis and Palestinians to embrace diversity, that’s what Tom did”, says Jocelyn.


The Israeli government and the army have consistently denied shooting Tom with intent. At first the army claimed that he had been carrying a gun, then that he had been standing near a man with a gun. 

In October, the Israeli military Attorney General, General Menachem Finkelstein, agreed to open a military investigation into Tom’s shooting.

Tom is the third westerner to havebeen injured or killed in Gaza recently

Tom is the third westerner to have
been injured or killed in Gaza recently

The family says that they have little confidence in the probe and have taken matters into their own hands by personally investigating Tom’s shooting.

Fourteen eyewitness have said that they saw Tom being shot by an Israeli sniper.

Photographs and video footage gathered by peace activists and eyewitnesses confirms that Tom was clearly marked in a fluorescent orange jacket – the trade mark of the International Solidarity Movement – the group that Tom was with and that he was carrying no weapons.


Tom is the third Westerner to have been wounded or killed in Gaza in recent months.

In March a 23-year-old American student, Rachel Corrie, was crushed to death in Rafah by an Israeli armoured bulldozer while she tried to protect a Palestinian family home from being flattened.

In May British journalist James Miller was killed by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier whilst filming a documentary about the effects of violence on Palestinian and Israeli children.

“Tom’s birthday will be a sad time for me, but it will also be a time for me to reflect on his remarkable life. I am fiercely proud of him and my family and I will do what’s right for Tom in terms of deciding on what happens next with the medical care that he is receiving.

“I want to protect Tom and I will be doing everything in my power to make sure that he is safe and at peace.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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