By Helen Hazan, March 19, 2002
— An investigative report by the ARD German television concludes
that Mohammed a-Dura, the 12-year-old boy from Gaza who was
killed at the beginning of the Intifada and whose picture was
broadcast around the world, was killed most likely by Palestinian
gunfire and not IDF gunfire.
Mohammed a-Dura was killed on the second day of the Intifada at
Netzarim junction, after he was caught along with his father in the
middle of exchanges of fire between IDF soldiers and Palestinians.
Foreign television crews documented the father protecting his
son, and then the boy’s death and the father’s injury. The pictures of
the two, hiding behind a wall, terrified, were published worldwide
They came to symbolize the Intifada and served as a dramatic
indictment against the State of Israel.
Esther Shapira, the editor of the prestigious documentary series, The
Fourth Square on the German television network ARD, decided to
investigate whether the boy truly had been shot by IDF soldiers, and
what the boy and his father were doing in so dangerous a place. The
report, which was broadcast yesterday, is based on an analysis of
the footage of the event and on testimonies.
Many people were interviewed for the program, including the father,
a Palestinian photographer who was on the scene, IDF soldiers and
The conclusion drawn by the investigation was that
Mohammed a-Dura was probably not killed by IDF fire.
“It cannot be concluded with absolute certainty that it was the
Palestinians who shot the boy, but the numerous proofs point to a
high probability that it was not the Israelis who did so”, the program
editor, Esther Shapira, told Yedioth Ahronoth yesterday.
She said that three pieces of data are lacking for a conclusion
of absolute certainty: No autopsy was performed, the bullets that
killed the boy were not sent to a lab for ballistic inspection — which
would have allowed for a determination as to which gun they were
fired from, and the wall behind which the father and boy hid was
destroyed by the IDF a short time after the incident, so that the
military positions and the gunmen’s positions could not be
determined with certitude.
“However”, said Shapira, “What can be proven is that the Israeli
soldiers were positioned lower down, while the pathologist in Gaza
determined that the bullets that killed a-Dura had been fired from
The report also concludes that a-Dura’s death was the result
of an accident and was not deliberate. “Had this been deliberate
gunfire, it would not have taken IDF snipers 45 minutes to hit a
stationary target”, Shapira said.
Another conclusion reached by the investigation is that the presence
of the father and son in so dangerous a place had been staged for
media propaganda purposes. This conclusion was reached because
“the father had no reasonable explanation as to why he was there
with his son at the time”.
The findings of ARD’s investigation correspond to the conclusions
drawn by the IDF, which were first published by Yedioth Ahronoth.
These conclusions state that a-Dura was probably killed by
Palestinian gunfire. Then OC Southern Command, Maj. Gen. (Res.)
Yom Tov Samia, headed an investigative committee that examined
the circumstances of the boy’s death. At the presentation of the
investigation’s findings, Samia said that the holes in the wall behind
the boy demonstrated that the bullets had been fired from a different
direction than that of the IDF position. Samia also explained that the
boy’s father said in interviews to the Arab media that his son had
been hit in the back, while the boy was facing in the direction of the
Arutz-7 additional information:
Some of the points raised by Shapira to support this hypothesis
include the following:
* The fatal bullets were shot from the front, when the only
forces firing from that angle were Palestinian.
* A big rock had obstructed the view of the boy and his
father from the view of the IDF forces, thus that the latter could not
see them. The day after the incident, however, an unknown hand
removed the rock and replaced it with a smaller one, as if to hide the
fact that the IDF did not have a view of the site.
* The Palestinians refused to release the many minutes of
footage that cameraman Talal Abu Rachman actually filmed, and the
world saw separate, disjointed scenes amounting to only about 45
* The Palestinian doctor did not allow an autopsy of the body.
* The Palestinian camera team arrived about an hour
beforehand, as if to prepare for a significant event.
Arutz-7 similarly reported shortly after the incident that a study by a
former IDF sniper strongly indicated that the boy was the victim of a
cruel plot staged by Palestinian sharpshooters and a television cameraman.
Former IDF sniper Yosef Doriel, who initiated a re-enactment, said at
the time that he had several reasons to suspect that it was not the
Israelis who shot the boy:
“For one thing, the boy and his father were hiding behind and
to the left of a barrel that was between them and the Israeli forces,”
he told Arutz-7.
“In the video clip, you see four clean bullet holes to the side
of them. These were not shot by the Israelis, as they are ‘clean’ and
full holes – not mere grazes that would have been formed by the
30-degree angle of the Israelis, but rather by Palestinians (stationed
more directly in front of the father and son) to make sure that the
two would stay put.
Suddenly, you see the boy lying down in his father’s lap, with
another bullet hole in the wall directly behind him – again, it could not
have come from the IDF position, which was behind the barrel and to
the side, but only from the Palestinian position, which was more
directly in front of the father and son. This is the bullet that went
through his stomach and out of his back.
At that point in the video, you can hear the firing – but the Israeli
position was far away! Rather, what happened was that a Palestinian
advanced to a spot very close to the photographer, and shot the fatal
shot. You can also notice that at that moment of the fatal shots, the
photographer suddenly ‘shook’ and the picture was blurred – a signal
that the shots came from close to him.”
Cameraman Talal Abu Rachman refused to comment on the German
film, saying he had to watch it first. His original testimony was that
no Arabs had fired shots at the time the boy was killed.
Gen. (res.) Yom-Tov Samiyeh, who headed the IDF Southern
Command at the time, said today, “One day, it will be proven that
the whole story… was one big Palestinian production. And
Palestinian propaganda has been riding on this for a long time now.”