Skip to main content

New controversy over video of Gaza boy's death 13 years ago

By Michael Schwartz and Elise Labott, CNN
May 21, 2013 -- Updated 2217 GMT (0617 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An Israeli government committee disputes a France 2 report of a Gaza boy's death
  • Image of the boy and his father under a hail of Israeli bullets became a powerful symbol
  • The father, Jamal al-Durrah, wants an independent inquiry to "show the world the truth"
  • There's no evidence the IDF was to blame for injuries to the boy or his father, Israeli report says

Jerusalem (CNN) -- As Jamal al-Durrah washes his son Mohammad's tombstone in a Gaza graveyard, he fears that the boy's spirit rests uneasy.

The image of the father shielding his 12-year-old son in a hail of bullets, under the glare of a camera, became the symbol of the second Palestinian uprising, or Intifada.

Thirteen years later, the controversy behind those pictures is still alive.

An Israeli government committee concluded in a report presented Sunday that the story, which was broadcast by France 2 in 2000, cannot be substantiated by the pictures.

Children of the conflict: Innocence interrupted by war

The news report aired by France 2 stated: "Here Jamal and his son Mohammad are the target of fire coming from the Israeli position. ... But, a new round of fire, Mohammad is dead and his father badly hurt."

However, the Israeli government committee report states: "There is no evidence that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) was in any way responsible for causing any of the alleged injuries to Jamal or the boy."

It's a statement that pains a still-grieving father. But Jamal al-Durrah is prepared to have his son's remains exhumed to demonstrate that he was killed by Israeli bullets, as reported in 2000.

"I would like to show the world the truth, and I am sitting in front of my son's grave and ready to accept an international independent investigation commission including Arabs," he said. "If Israel agrees, I am ready to open the grave."

The head of the Israeli government review committee, Yossi Kuperwasser, said he does not know what happened to Mohammad al-Durrah.

Showing the raw material provided by France 2 to CNN, he said, "See, he was supposed to be dead. He was declared dead a moment ago, understand, he was declared dead when he was lying (there.) That's where he cut it. He said the boy is dead. But a second later, he (Mohammad al-Durrah) raises his hand."

Analysis: Conflict shifts balance of power in the Middle East

Israel places the implications of the Mohammad al-Durrah story in a much wider context.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "It is important to focus on this incident, which has slandered Israel's reputation. This is a manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimize Israel.

"There is only one way to counter lies, and that is through the truth. Only the truth can prevail over lies."

The search for that truth has been conducted in courthouses, human rights reports and media investigations.

Cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, who filmed the event for France 2, and also works for CNN, has been at the center of trying to understand what happened on that fateful day.

Thirteen years later, he points to the camera that recorded the event as his most solid source, saying: "My witness is (my) camera. ... I am sorry this camera does not talk, but really this camera recorded that footage."

Mohammad al-Durrah's story has become an important symbol in the Palestinian struggle for statehood. The image of his final moments is shown on stamps in Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran and Morocco.

Israel says that the false narrative of al-Durrah's death has been used to justify terrorist attacks against Israel and worldwide anti-Semitism.

It is perhaps the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians over the righteousness of their narrative that will not let this image be forgotten.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 0732 GMT (1532 HKT)
Beneath a dusty town in northeastern Pakistan, CNN explores a cold labyrinth of hidden tunnels that was once a safe haven for militants.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2249 GMT (0649 HKT)
CNN's Ravi Agrawal asks whether Narendra Modi can harness the country's potential to finally deliver growth.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 0444 GMT (1244 HKT)
CNN's Ben Wedeman visits the Yazji family and finds out what it's like living life in the middle of conflict.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Brazil's oldest foe secures its place in the World Cup final for the first time in more than two decades after defeating the Netherlands on penalties.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Israel has deployed its Iron Dome defense system to halt incoming rockets. Here's how it works.
A high speed train leaves Beijing south railway station on August 11, 2011.
How Beijing built the world's largest high-speed rail network in less than a decade.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
CNN's Becky Anderson looks at how practicing underwater is the perfect way to prepare for spacewalks.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0917 GMT (1717 HKT)
An emotional Brazil fan reacts after being defeated by Germany 7-1 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Brazil and Germany at Estadio Mineirao on July 8, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Spectacular Germany outplays Brazil to reach the World Cup final with a 7-1 win over the hosts.
Even those who aren't in the line of fire feel the effects of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq since extremists attacked.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0641 GMT (1441 HKT)
CNN's Jim Bittermann takes a look at a family who found the remains of their great- grandfather 100 years later.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT