Israeli military police have recently arrested and questioned a soldier suspected of shooting British civilian Tom Hurndall in Rafah last April, the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Hurndall suffered severe brain damage as a result of the shooting and lies in a vegetative state in England. His family has begun proceedings allowing him to eventually be disconnected from respiratory and other life-support systems.
Hurndall, 22, a student from Manchester and a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), was injured by Israeli gunfire in Rafah refugee camp on April 11, 2003. Other ISM activists on the scene at the time of the incident charged that Israeli snipers starting shooting at Palestinians - including children - in the street without any provocation.
In England, Hurndall's mother welcomed the arrest and said it must be made clear to Israeli soldiers that they were answerable for their actions and could not shoot with impunity.
The soldier suspected of shooting Hurndall "admitted to firing in proximity to an unarmed civilian as a deterrent," said a release from the Israeli army.
Hurndall's mother Jocelyn said she was still dubious about the outcome of the military inquiry. "I remain skeptical... but I'm hopeful," she told Sky News. "I think this is the first positive step.
"We wish the rules of engagement in Israel to be looked at extremely seriously," she said. "We wish every Israeli soldier to get the message very clearly that they cannot shoot with impunity, that they are answerable for their actions."
Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat charged Wednesday in a speech marking the anniversary of his Fatah Movement that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not want to achieve peace.
"Our hand is still extended for a peace of the brave, we strongly believe in this peace and this belief will not wane despite the grief and suffering endured by our people," Arafat said in a televised address.
"This Israeli government does not want the peace of the brave, does not work towards resuming the peace process and does not want to implement the roadmap or come back to the negotiations table," the Palestinian president declared.
His speech came a day ahead of the 39th anniversary of his movement's first armed attack in Israel, which is marked as the start of the "Palestinian revolution" although Arafat officially founded Fatah in Kuwait in the late 1950s.
Thousands of people were gathered in front of the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City to listen to the annual address.
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )