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The IDF this week detained a soldier suspected of shooting and critically wounding a British peace activist, Tom Hurndall. The young man, a 21-year-old student from Manchester, is in a coma and not expected to recover.

Hurndall was shot on April 11, 2003, in an incident involving his protest group, the International Solidarity Movement, near the Israeli-Egypt border in Rafah. The original IDF Southern Command inquiry did not identify soldiers responsible for the shooting. Then, facing pressure exerted by Hurndall's family, IDF Judge Advocate General Menahem Finkelstein agreed two months ago to open a new inquiry into the shooting.

IDF military police investigated a soldier from the desert patrol (Bedouin) battalion. The soldier confirmed that he fired during the incident from behind a concrete barrier. He claimed that he shot in response to heavy Palestinian gunfire, and that he aimed at a Palestinian who had a pistol and wore a uniform.

The military police continued to investigate the incident, and the same soldier later changed his account. He now admits that he fired at Hurndall to "deter" him, and hit the young man's head by mistake. The soldier's remand was extended by seven days yesterday.

In England, Hurndall's mother welcomed the arrest, and said that Israel must make clear to its soldiers that they cannot shoot civilians "with impunity."

Jocelyn Hurndall, told Sky News: "I remain skeptical but I'm hopeful. I think this is the first positive step. We wish the rules of engagement in Israel to be looked at extremely seriously. We wish every Israeli soldier to get the message very clearly that they cannot shoot with impunity, that they are answerable for their actions."