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The September 2000 death of Palestinian child Mohammed Al-Dura in the Gaza Strip was staged by a Gaza cameraman, Government Press Office (GPO) Director Daniel Seaman said yesterday.

Seaman made the comments in an official letter, representing the Prime Minister's Office, in response to demands he strip France 2 journalists of their GPO credentials. France 2 had broadcast the original footage of Al-Dura's death on September 30, 2000, the second day of the Second Intifada.

The Prime Minister's Bureau said it had not received Seaman's letter, did not know of its contents nor did it grant its approval. However, it seems that the Prime Minister's Office's legal adviser approved the letter.

Seaman also wrote that "Israel was accused of murdering a small child after the event by the world press and his image has been burned into the collective Arab memory as a symbol of the brutality of the Zionist state."

Following a summary of the incident and the events that followed, Seaman wrote, "Here began the long path to exposing the truth and to base the facts that are known to us today, that the events of that day were essentially staged by the network's cameraman in Gaza, Mr. Tilal Abu-Rehama."

Seaman nonetheless refused to strip the network of its GPO credentials.

The disturbing images of Mohammed Al-Dura's death were shown around the world. In the France 2 report, the boy and his father cower in front of a wall amid a furious exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants at the Netzarim junction in Gaza.

The report shows the father gesturing to try to stop the shooting - then cuts to a shot of the motionless boy slumped in his father's lap. The report said the gunfire had come from nearby Israeli positions, though the circumstances remain in dispute.

The IDF initially said the gunfire apparently came from Israeli positions. But a military investigation subsequently determined he could have been hit by Palestinian bullets in an exchange of fire.

In recent years Israel has avoided relating to the incident, mostly because of the Foreign Ministry's recommendation that renewed handling of the affair would not help Israel's image in any case. In 2005, five years after the shooting, the Prime Minister's Bureau refused Seaman's proposal to publish an official stance denying responsibility for Al-Dura's death.

Last month, a French court ordered France 2 to release unedited 7-year-old footage of Al-Dura's death for renewed investigations into the incident.

The court launched new hearings in the legal dispute between France 2 and Philippe Karsenty, a self-described media watchdog, who has accused the network and its Israel correspondent, Charles Enderlin, of staging the shooting.

Enderlin and the TV network filed a libel suit against Karsenty, and a Paris judge ruled in their favor last year.