Tear gas fired by Israeli forces during clashes in the West Bank on Friday had no direct link to the death of a Palestinian baby, the Israel Defense Forces said on Saturday, rejecting Palestinian claims to the contrary.
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According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, eight-month-old Mohammed Faisal Thawabta was pronounced dead at a Bethlehem hospital after he inhaled tear gas during clashes in the Beit Fajjar village, south of Bethlehem. But the IDF said an investigation into the incident showed that tear gas was not used in the vicinity of the baby's family home, but dozens of meters away.
An Israeli military source also added that the baby's relatives said he suffered from a birth defect. Hospital sources also told Reuters the infant had a prior health condition and that it was unclear what had caused his death.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit stated that dozens of Palestinians were torching tires and throwing stones at army forces deployed to stop the protesters from heading to the nearby Migdal Oz settlement. The troops pushed back the protesters using crowd dispersal means, as well as rubber bullet and low-velocity bullet fire.
"An investigation shows that no crowd dispersal means were directly targeting the Thawabta family home. The use of gas canisters was made several dozen meters away from the family home, toward rioters who blocked the main route with rocks," said the statement.
"In light of the findings of the investigations – operational and medical – the IDF believes there is no direct link between IDF activities in the area and the tragic death of the Palestinian baby."