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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007, 08:11 GMT
Dispute rages over al-Durrah footage
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Jerusalem

They were images broadcast all over the world. The TV footage of a young Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Durrah, and his father cowering in front of a wall as Israeli forces and Palestinians exchanged gunfire at a crossroads in Gaza.

Television images showing the last moments of Mohammed al-Dura's life
The footage is once again under the spotlight

The 12-year-old Muhammad was killed during the incident in September 2000.

For Palestinians and many people around the world, the death - coming in the early weeks of the second Palestinian uprising - became a symbol of the brutality of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Initially, Israeli army officials said that the bullets "apparently" came from Israeli positions.

A subsequent military investigation concluded that it was "quite plausible that the boy was hit by Palestinian bullets in the course of an exchange of fire".

But seven years on, the footage of the death of Muhammad al-Durrah is once again under the spotlight and the subject of a French court case.

Philippe Karsenty, a French financial analyst who has studied the killing, accuses the channel which first aired the footage, France 2, its correspondent Charles Enderlin and the Palestinian cameraman who filmed the incident of being complicit in staging the killing.

This is a campaign designed to harass foreign correspondents and call into question all the footage shot in the occupied Palestinian territories
Charles Enderlin
France 2 correspondent

Mr Karsenty, who also runs a media watchdog group, was sued by the channel and correspondent. In 2006 a French court found that he had defamed them.

But now Mr Karsenty is appealing against the decision, and the court hearing the case has requested that France 2 release the unedited footage of the death.

Enderlin says that the whole case is a "smear campaign".

"The footage is authentic," he told the BBC News website. "This is a campaign designed to harass foreign correspondents and call into question all the footage shot in the occupied Palestinian territories."


Enderlin confirmed that France 2 would show the 18 minutes of unedited footage filmed that day to the French court.

The case comes as there are more allegations in Israel that the event was not as it first appeared.

Events could not have occurred as they were described... This blood libel inflamed the Arab world and led to many victims in Israel and across the world
Danny Seaman
Director, Israeli government press office

The director of the Israeli government's press office, Danny Seaman, last month described the events as being "staged".

"Events could not have occurred as they were described by the network's reporter, Charles Enderlin, since they contradict the law of physics," he wrote in a letter.

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

However, another Israeli government spokesman, Miri Eisen, has said this is Mr Seaman's "professional" view and that the government has no position on the question of the staging of the incident.

The French court case has made few ripples among Palestinians. For most, the Muhammad al-Durrah case is closed.

"The majority of Palestinians would not believe the court if they said the killing was fake," says Dr Eyad Sarraj, the head of the Gaza Community Health Programme. "They would see it as some sort of conspiracy."

"All Palestinians see the Israelis as guilty in this. Even if Muhammad al-Durrah was killed by a Palestinian bullet, if it hadn't been for the Israeli occupation in Gaza he would be still alive today."


Some commentators in Israel also question the wisdom of dredging up the Muhammad al-Durrah case.

"I think in one sense it's damaging because it keeps raising the issue," says Calev Ben David, a media columnist for the Jerusalem Post daily newspaper.

"But I do think that we need to be more proactive and challenge Palestinian manipulation of the media."

The truth of what exactly happened back on 30 September 2000 may always remain disputed.

But the father of Muhammad, Jamal al-Durrah, has said he is willing to have his son's body disinterred for an autopsy as part of an "independent" inquiry.

Mr Durrah has little doubt about what happened that day - he blames Israel for his son's death.

"I'm not afraid because I'm confident of what I witnessed and what the world saw," he recently told the Associated Press news agency.

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