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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007, 08:00 GMT
Killing of Palestinian boy re-examined
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Jerusalem

It was an iconic image that swept the world.

The TV footage of a young Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Dura, and his father cowering in front of a wall as Israeli forces and Palestinians militants exchanged gunfire at a crossroads in Gaza.

Twelve-year-old Mohammed was killed during the incident in September 2000.

For Palestinians, the boy's death - coming in the early weeks of the second Palestinian uprising - became a symbol of the brutality of the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Initially, Israeli army officials said that the bullets "apparently" came from Israeli positions. A subsequent military investigation determined that it was "quite plausible that the boy was hit by Palestinian bullets in the course of an exchange of fire."

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

But seven years on, the case of Mohammed al-Dura is once again under the spotlight subject of a French court case.

A French lawyer, Philippe Karsenty, who studied the killing accused the channel France 2, which first aired the footage, and its correspondent Charles Enderlin, of staging the incident.

Mr Karsenty was sued by the two parties and found guilty for libel in 2006 by a French court.

But now Mr Karsenty is appealing the decision and a French court has requested France 2 release the unedited footage of the death shooting by next week.

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

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

'Blood Libel'

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

The court case comes as there are more accusations in Israel that the event was not as it first appears.

The Israeli Government Press Office director Danny Seaman last month described the events as being "staged."

"Events could not have not have occurred as they were described 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."

An Israeli government spokesman, Miri Eisen, said this was Mr Seaman's "professional" view and that the government had no position on the matter.

But the goings-on in a French court have made few ripples within Palestinian society. For most Palestinians, the al-Dura case is closed and shut.

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

Autopsy

"All Palestinians see the Israelis as guilty in this. Even if Mohammed al-Dura 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 al-Dura case.

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

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

The truth of what exactly happened during the event will probably never been conclusive.

But the father of Mohammed al-Dura, Jamal, says that he's willing to have his son's body dug up for an autopsy as part of an "independent" inquiry.

. Mr al-Dura is in little doubt 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," said Mr al-Dura, according to the AP news agency.

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