An Israeli government report published this week rebuts claims that Israeli troops killed a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad al Durah, in 2000. The report has once again focused attention on the case that became a symbol of the second Palestinian Intifada.
Jamal al Durah and his son Muhammad, 12, were pinned down by fighting around the Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip in September 2000. A report by the France2 TV channel purported to show Mr al Durah being hit from shots fired from an IDF observation tower while trying to shield his son. According to the report, further shots killed Muhammad.
The footage was broadcast around the world and Muhammad al Durah became an icon for the Palestinian resistance movement. Israel initially admitted that its soldiers had fired the shots that killed him but subsequent investigations by Israeli civilians and officers placed doubt on some of the main points in the report.
Among the question marks were the claim that the soldiers in the tower did not have a direct line of fire to the point where the al Durahs were sheltering; that the wounds Mr al Durah claimed to have sustained in the incident were old ones and that the full footage seemed to show Muhammad moving after he was allegedly killed.
Claims and counter-claims over the veracity of the report have prompted a series of libel hearings, still ongoing in French courts. Last September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Ministry for Strategic Affairs to hold an official investigation and on Sunday it delivered its findings. It concluded that the raw footage proved that at the end of the incident, al Durah was still alive and there was no proof that he had been hit. The report accused the Palestinian cameraman and French reporter Charles Enderlin of a “misleading” report.
Mr Netanyahu said: “It was important to focus on this case. It libelled Israel and is an example of the delegitimisation we experience all the time. There is only one way to fight lies and that is with truth.”
Rejecting the conclusions, Mr al Durah called for the establishment of an international commission and said he was prepared to exhume his son’s body. Mr Enderlin said: “How can the report’s authors omit the fact that Jamal al Durah was hospitalised the next day in the Jordanian capital of Amman? How can they claim that the IDF did not open fire?”