Middle East

Israel says 'no proof' its troops shot Mohammed al-Dura

Frame from France 2 footage showing Mohammed and Jamal al-Dura under fire in Gaza (Sept 2000)
Image caption The pictures of Mohammed and Jamal al-Dura under fire in Gaza were shown around the world in 2000

An Israeli investigation has said a French news report in 2000 which blamed Israeli troops for shooting dead a Palestinian child was baseless.

It said raw footage of the incident provided no evidence that Israeli bullets killed 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura, as the France 2 report claimed.

Scenes of the child being shot in Gaza became one of the most enduring images of the second Palestinian uprising.

The footage has been the subject of dispute for many years.

France 2 has stood by the report and sued a French media activist, Philippe Karsenty, for defamation after he said the film was bogus. A French appeals court will rule on that case on Wednesday.

The television report showed Mohammed al-Dura shielded by his father Jamal as the pair were apparently caught in cross-fire between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in September 2000.

Jamal survived the incident but the France 2 film showed what appeared to be the boy's lifeless body at the end of the report, which was aired around the world.

Israel initially apologised for the shooting. Soon after, Israel raised doubts about France 2's version of events, saying he could have been shot by Palestinians.

Israel was widely blamed by Palestinians and internationally for the death. The image of the child became a symbol of opposition to Israeli military occupation.

'Mendacious campaign'

The investigation, ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last September, concludes that France 2's claims that Israeli soldiers shot Mohammed al-Dura are untrue, and that there was no proof he and his father were even harmed.

"Contrary to the report's claim that the boy is killed, the committee's review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy is seen to be alive," it added.

The report called on France 2 to "publicly correct and clarify [its] narrative as a first step towards moderating the [TV] report's destructive effects".

Image caption France 2 said it would help with any exhumation of Mohammed al-Dura's grave

Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed the findings.

"It is important to focus on this incident - which has slandered Israel's reputation," he said in a statement.

"This is a manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimise Israel. There is only one way to counter lies, and that is through the truth," he said.

Following the publication of the Israeli report, France 2 said it had "shown a willingness to participate in any official independent investigation, carried out according to international standards".

It said it was also willing to assist if Jamal al-Dura decided to carry out an exhumation "to help clarify the circumstances" of his son's death.

Jamal al-Dura dismissed the Israeli conclusions as fabricated.

"The Israelis are lying and trying to cover the truth," he told AFP news agency.

This controversy around the Dura case has rolled on for more than a decade and is unlikely to stop here, says the BBC's Jon Donnison in Jerusalem.

As with much of the Israel-Palestinian conflict both sides have entirely different interpretations of what happened on that day, and each side's version of the truth will likely never be accepted by the other, he adds.