Image: Mohammed al-Dura, Jamal al-Dura
AP
Footage captured on Sept. 30, 2000, depicted the death of Mohammed al-Dura, left. The images showed the terrified boy and his father, Jamal, cowering in front of a wall amid a furious exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
updated 10/1/2007 10:05:46 PM ET 2007-10-02T02:05:46

A senior Israeli official has accused a French television network of manipulating video footage to make Israel’s army look responsible for the shooting death of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy during a gunbattle with militants seven years ago.

The claim goes further than an official army investigation into the incident and was denied by the network, France 2. The army probe said it was highly unlikely that Israeli troops shot the boy but did not rule out that possibility or make any accusations about the video.

The incident, which took place in the early days of the second Palestinian uprising against Israel, has become a recurring symbol for Palestinians who accuse Israeli troops of using excessive force.

Aired by France 2 on Sept. 30, 2000, the video showed a terrified Mohammed al-Dura and his father cowering in front of a wall during a furious exchange of gunfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

The father gestured frantically to try to stop the shooting as the boy screamed in fright. The video then cut to a shot of the motionless boy slumped in his father’s lap. The report said the fatal bullet had come from nearby Israeli positions.

Video's accuracy under fire
In the years since, some people have questioned the video’s accuracy, and a group of Israeli lawyers, the Israel Law Center, has repeatedly petitioned the Israel Government Press Office to revoke France 2’s press credentials.

The press office’s director, Danny Seaman, denied the latest request, but in his response to the lawyers, accused the French network of manipulating its footage and harming Israel.

“The events of that day were in fact staged by the network’s cameraman in Gaza, Mr. Talal Abu Rahma,” Seaman wrote in a Sept. 23 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

“Events could not have occurred as they were described by the network’s reporter, Charles Enderlin, since they contradict the laws of physics,” Seaman wrote.

This “blood libel,” Seaman added, “inflamed the Arab world and led to many victims in Israel and across the world.”

In an interview, Seaman said the direction from which Israeli troops were firing wouldn’t have allowed their bullets to strike the father and son. The footage did not show the moment of the boy’s death, he noted.

Seaman did not say if he had if any additional evidence beyond the army investigation of seven years ago.

Enderlin branded Seaman’s accusations as false. “We stand by our story,” he said.

The newspaper Haaretz quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office as saying it was not informed of Seaman’s letter and adding that the letter was not officially authorized. A government spokesman contacted by AP had no immediate comment.

Investigation reopened last month
Immediately after the shooting, army officials said the gunfire “apparently” came from Israeli positions. But a military investigation subsequently determined it was “quite plausible that the boy was hit by Palestinian bullets in the course of an exchange of fire.”

Last month, the Israeli army reopened the contentious affair by asking France 2 to turn over unedited footage of the boy’s death. The request was connected with a legal dispute in France between the network and a media watchdog who accused France 2 of staging the incident.

Enderlin and the TV network filed a libel suit against the accuser, Philippe Karsenty, and a judge ruled in Enderlin’s favor last year. But Karsenty appealed, and the court has ordered the France 2 to turn over unedited footage of the incident.

Judges are scheduled to view the video Nov. 14, court officials say. No decision is expected in the appeal before February.

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