German TV Station: Mohammed A-Dura Killed by Palestinians

Gaza City/Hamburg - Nearly 18 months after television footage was aired of the killing of 12-year-old Mohammed A-Dura near the Netzarim junctionin the Gaza Strip, a dispute has erupted over who shot him.

A-Dura was killed during an exchange of fire between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen at the junction, and the event has become a potent symbol of the Palestinian uprising.

A report broadcast Monday by German ARD television said A-Dura was shot dead by Palestinian militants during the shootout with the soldiers.

ARD said its report by Esther Shapira included photographs and documents proving that contrary to earlier reports the boy had not been shot dead by Israeli soldiers but by Palestinian militants.

Virtually all Israeli media had assumed at the time that Mohammed,was shot dead by soldiers during the 30-minute clash.

The father of Mohammed A-Dura, Jamal, who was seriously injured in the shootout, rejected the report: "I am 100 percent certain that the Israelis were to blame," he said. "I have medical reports, X-rays and reports by eyewitnesses confirming that we came under fire from Israeli soldiers."

The Palestinian cameraman, Talal Abu Rachman, who filmed the death of Mohammed on September 30, 2000, declined to comment on the ARD report, saying he had to watch the program first.

Abu Rachman had said in his initial testimony that no Palestinian gunmen had fired shots at the time when the boy was killed.

The former GOC Southern Command, Yom-Tov Samia, who headed an investigation into the shooting of A-Dura, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that the army had erred in hurrying to apologize for the boy's death. Senior IDF officers who issued the apology, said Samia, "made a very grave mistake."

"One day," he added, "it will be proven that the whole story... was one big Palestinian production. And Palestinian propoganda has been riding on this for a long time now."