Israel claims that the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, paid the Gaza family of a baby girl who died last month to claim that she died from inhaling tear gas that was fired by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border with Israel. The allegation appears in an indictment that Israeli prosecutors filed on Thursday against a resident of Gaza who is related to the child, Layla al-Ghandour and who was caught trying to infiltrate into Israel.
The indictment against Mahmoud Omar, 20, was filed after he was caught trying to cross into Israel to set fire to an unmanned Israeli army position. He is also accused of membership in an offshoot of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and of disturbance during demonstrations along the Israeli border, although the indictment does not provide details regarding his involvement in the protests.
Under interrogation in Israel, Omar, who is Layla al-Ghandour's cousin, said Hamas leader Sinwar paid the baby's family 8,000 shekels ($2,200) to accuse Israel of the death of the 8-month-old. The claim came despite the fact that members of the family had previously said that she died of a blood disorder, a condition that the baby's six-month-old brother apparently also died of last year.
When news surfaced of the claim that Layla al-Ghandour had died from inhaling tear gas, Israeli army officials cast doubt on the allegation, saying that the army had evidence that called the family's claim into question.
According to the indictment against Omar, on the day that Layla al-Ghandour died, Omar's mother called him while he was participating in a demonstration near the border fence and told him about the child's death. Omar is said to have been told on returning home that the baby had died of the same blood disease that took the life of her brother.
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Gaza Health Ministry officials claimed the day after her death that it was not clear if she had died from inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops. About two weeks later, the Health Ministry removed Layla al-Ghandour's name from a list of the names of those killed in border clashes with Israeli forces. Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said the child's death was being investigated by the Palestinian Justice Ministry.