Israeli soldier jailed for killing British activist Tom Hurndall released early

Tasyir Hayb freed from prison with two years remaining on his eight-year sentence for Briton's manslaughter in Gaza in 2003, Wednesday 8 September 2010 17.53 BST

Tom Hurndall was shot in the head by Israeli soldier Taysir Hayb in 2003 as he helped Palestinian children cross a street in Gaza.

The Israeli soldier convicted of killing British activist Tom Hurndall was released from prison today, two years before completing his sentence.

Tasyir Hayb was found guilty of manslaughter in 2005, when a military court found he had violated orders. He was also convicted him of obstruction of justice and false testimony. He has served six years of his eight-year sentence.

Hurndall, then 22, was shot in the head in April 2003 while he was helping Palestinian children cross a street in Rafah, in the Gaza strip. He had been filming with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Hurndall fell into a coma and died the following year.

According to Israeli newspapers, the military prosecution opposed Hayb's early release, fearing it would damage Israel's relations with the UK. But a military committee overruled this last month, arguing that Hayb, 27, had been sufficiently rehabilitated.

Tom's mother, Jocelyn, today said: "From the moment that Tom was shot, we said it wasn't about the soldier, who is a small part of the machinery, but about the responsibility of the Israeli army and its lack of accountability over civilian killings. To say that the soldier has reformed is to miss the point – the British government needs to hold Israel accountable for its actions."

Hayb's release comes as the case against the Israeli state filed by the parents of Rachel Corrie, the American activist killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Rafah the month before Hurndall was shot, is reconvened in Israel.