Thirteen years after an exchange of fire in Gaza appeared to have resulted in the death of a Palestinian boy at the start of the second intifada, an Israeli investigative panel has found "there are many indications" that Mohammed al-Dura and his father, Jamal, "were never hit by gunfire" – neither Israeli nor Palestinian – after all.
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The national panel of inquiry further claims that contrary to the famed report carried by the France 2 television network on the day of the incident, September 30, 2000, 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura appears to be alive at the end of the complete footage captured of the event.
The investigative panel was commissioned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon in September 2012, and was headed by Yossi Kuperwasser, former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. It included representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit and the Israel Police, as well as outside experts.
The probe focused primarily on the France 2 report about al-Dura's death and the events that followed. The report, which was presented by journalist Charles Enderlin, alleged that the boy was killed by bullets fired by Israel Defense Forces troops.
The committee found that the evidence in the television station's possession did not support the claim that al-Dura died as a result of IDF gunfire. It added that the report falsely created the impression that the channel had solid proof that Israeli soldiers were responsible for the boy's death.
"Contrary to the claim that the boy was dead, the committee's review of the raw footage indicates that at the end of the video – the part that was not broadcast – the boy appears to be alive," the inquiry stated. "The probe has found that there is no evidence to support the claims that the father, Jamal, or the boy Mohammed, were shot. Furthermore, the video does not show Jamal being seriously wounded."
"On the other hand, many signs indicate that the two were never hit by the bullets," the panel added in its conclusion.
The inquiry casts doubt on the possibility that the bullet holes left on a wall under which the boy and his father sought shelter were caused by gunfire that came from a nearby IDF post, as was suggested in the France 2 report.
The committee stressed that "many question marks surround almost every aspect of the report," further hinting that a boy named Mohammed al-Dura may have never existed.
The committee, which submitted its report for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's review on Sunday, charges France 2 and the reporter, Enderlin, with "harming Israel's international standing and igniting the flames of terror and hatred."
"Since it aired, the France 2 report about Israel's actions has served as inspiration and justification for terror, anti-Semitism and the Israel's de-legitimization," the panel said.
An entire chapter within the inquiry report criticizes the media and offers conclusions that should be employed by journalists, even though no reporters were part of the committee. The panel asserted that the incident and its coverage highlight the need for "media outlets to abide by the strictest professional and ethical standards while reporting on asymmetrical conflicts."
The photos of the Duras, father and son, taking cover behind a barrel during an exchange of gunfire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants, near the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip, remains one of the most enduring images of the second intifada.
Israel initially apologized for the boy's death but issued a retraction when subsequent investigations indicated the boy was most likely killed by Palestinian fire.
In a February 2005 hearing in Paris, French Web site owner Phillipe Karsenty claimed France 2 had staged the incident, claiming the footage showed the boy still moving his arm, even though the cameraman had said he was dead. He provided a report from a French ballistics expert indicating the shots fired past the al-Duras came from the Palestinian position, and he pointed out that several scenes before the al-Dura incident appeared staged.
The judge agreed in that hearing that some scenes did not seem genuine.
However, Enderlin said that the images were no different from the clashes he had witnessed repeatedly. The prosecution stated that a dead Palestinian boy had been buried after the Netzarim junction incident, and that Jamal al-Dura consented to DNA tests that could prove the boy was his son.