Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Muhammed al-Durrah was a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy killed by gunfire on September 30, 2000 at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. A French television crew (France 2) near Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip filmed the boy clutching his father as his father tried to shield him from bullets.
Muhammad al-Durrah left home that morning to accompany his father, Jamal al-Durrah, on a day's outing to shop for a car. On the return trip home, the father and son crossed a main street in the Bureij refugee camp when heavy shooting broke out between Palestinian militiamen and an Israel Defense Force (IDF) outpost near Netzarim junction. Muhammad and Jamal al-Durrah sought sanctuary in vain between a concrete cylinder and a low cinderblock wall as bullets rained down around them for about 45 minutes, of which 27 minutes were filmed.
"He stayed close to me, clutching me from my back while I was trying to keep him away from the bullets," said his father. "But one bullet hit him in the leg. I started screaming and crying, hoping that the bullets would stop, but to no avail."
Edited television footage showed Jamal al-Durrah waving desperately, shouting, "Don't shoot!" but Muhammad was eventually hit by four bullets and collapsed in his father's arms. Jamal al-Durrah was also shot and suffered critical injuries but survived after receiving emergency surgery in Jordan. He suffered a permanently paralyzed right arm.
"It is the worst nightmare of my life... My son was terrified, he pleaded with me: 'For the love of God protect me, Baba (Dad).'
"I will never forget these words."
An ambulance driver who tried to reach the trapped pair was shot and killed by IDF soldiers. A second ambulance driver was wounded.
The killing was captured on film by Talal Abu Rahma, a freelance Palestinian cameraman working for France 2, and an edited version of the raw footage was shown on France 2 and repeatedly broadcast on Palestinian television and around the world. Though he was not present at the shooting, in his voiceover of the film Charles Enderlin (the reporter in charge of the France 2 crew) stated that Israeli forces had killed the boy. This accusation was widely accepted as fact, and Muhammad al-Durrah's death quickly became a rallying symbol of resistance and rage against Israel. Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and Turkey issued postage stamps depicting al-Durrah as a martyr. Egypt re-named the street in front of the Israeli embassy "Muhammad al Durra Street" in his honour, the Palestinian Authority gave the same name to a street in Jericho, and Saddam Hussein similarly named a main thoroughfare in Baghdad "Martyr Mohammed al-Dura Street". The Iranian Ministry of Education developed a website commemorating him, and Sheikh Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, composed a poem in his honour.
"My son didn't die in vain," said Muhammad's mother, Amal. "This was his sacrifice for our homeland, for Palestine."
The IDF initially stated that it was "probably responsible" for killing Muhammad al-Durrah and expressed sorrow at his death. IDF operations chief Giora Eiland announced that a preliminary investigation revealed that "the shots were apparently fired by Israeli soldiers from the outpost at Netzarim".
On October 30 2000 Abu Rhama gave a sworn affidavit to the Palestine Centre for Human Rights about the events. The affidavit stated, in part, that Abu Rhama could "confirm that the child was intentionally and in cold blood shot dead and his father injured by the Israeli army."  In 2000 and 2001 he received a number of prizes and awards for the footage (primarily from organizations in Arab and Muslim countries), including the 2000 Festival Scoop Prize, Angers, France; Qurtaj Cinema Festival, Tunisia; Palestine Prize for Arts, Literature and Human Sciences; Qatar Honoring Prize, Doha, Qatar; Alexandria Honoring Prize, Alexandria, Egypt; Research Fund for the Study of Future of North-South Cultural Communication in Rabat, Morocco; Iran Prize for the Palestinian Intifada; Medal of Bravery, Palestinian Journalists' Association, Jerusalem; Arab Journalism Prize (Best News Scoop), Dubai; Journalist of the Year, ADC, Washington DC; Jordanian Syndicates' Complex Prize, Amman; Radio & TV Festival Prize, Cairo, and the Rory Peck Trust Sony International Impact Award.
On October 7 2001, al Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, speaking for Osama bin Laden, warned American President George W. Bush that he "shouldn't forget the image of Mohammed al-Dura and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq" and promised that "The storms of planes will not stop until you drag your defeated tails from Afghanistan, not until you raise your hands from the Jews in Palestine, not until you lift the embargo on the Iraqi people, not until you leave the Arabian peninsula, not until you stop supporting the Hindus against the Muslims in Kashmir."
In May, 2004 the Kuwaiti investment company Global Investment House created the "Al-Durra Islamic Fund" with the investment objective of seeking "capital growth through investing in Sharia’a-compliant local shares."
The initial footage immediately led some to conclude that the whole incident had been staged. Richard Landes, a Boston University professor specializing in medieval cultures, and founder and director of the Center for Millennial Studies, studied full footage from other Western news outlets three times that day, including the pictures of the boy, and concluded that it had probably been faked, along with footage on the same tape of separate street clashes and ambulance rescues. "I came to the realization that Palestinian cameramen, especially when there are no Westerners around, engage in the systematic staging of action scenes," he said, calling the footage "Pallywood cinema".
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) began a formal inquiry into the incident, headed by IDF Southern Commander Major General Yom Tov Samia, and including Nahum Shahaf, a physicist, and Yosef Duriel, an engineer. On October 23, 2000 a re-enactment of the shooting was done on an IDF shooting range, in front of a 60 Minutes camera crew. In an interview with the crew at that time, Duriel stated that he believed that al-Durrah had been killed by Palestinian gunmen collaborating with the France 2 camera crew and the boy's father, with the intent of fabricating an anti-Israel propaganda symbol. Samia immediately removed Duriel from the investigation, but Duriel continued to aver that his version was accurate and that the IDF refused to publicize it because the results were "explosive". (Anat Cygielman, Haaretz, November 7 2000)
The results of the IDF inquiry were released on November 27, 2000, and they reached different conclusions than the initial IDF declaration of probable guilt. Samia stated "A comprehensive investigation conducted in the last weeks casts serious doubt that the boy was hit by Israeli fire. It is quite plausible that the boy was hit by Palestinian bullets in the course of the exchange of fire that took place in the area." Palestinians noted that no Israeli soldiers were charged with any wrongdoing and generally viewed claims of Palestinian responsibility for Muhammad al-Durrah's death as an attempt to cover-up an Israeli military atrocity.
Though the IDF did not support Duriel's thesis, right-wing supporters of Israel such as WorldNetDaily continued to propound it . The French author Gérard Huber made a similar argument—that al-Durrah's death was staged—but went further, claiming that the boy had not even been killed.
A November 13, 2001 Amnesty International (AI) report titled Broken Lives - A Year of Intifada quoted the cameraman Talal Abu Rahma's sworn affidavit to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights stating that gunfire from the Palestinian outpost stopped 45 minutes before Muhammad al-Durrah was shot. AI's report claimed that photographs taken by journalists showed a pattern of bullet holes indicating that father and son were targeted by the Israeli post opposite them. AI also noted that on October 11, 2001, the IDF spokesperson in Jerusalem had showed AI delegates maps which purported to show that al-Durrah had been killed in crossfire.
A 2002 documentary on Germany's ARD television network titled Three Bullets and a Child: Who Killed the Young Muhammad al-Dura?, based on the IDF findings and a ballistic analysis of the scene, repeated the conclusion that al-Durrah could not have been killed by gunfire from the Israeli outpost.
James Fallows, in a June 2003 article in The Atlantic Monthly titled Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura? cited a number of unanswered questions raised by the Israeli physicist Nahum Shahaf during the second IDF investigation:
"Why is there no footage of the boy after he was shot? Why does he appear to move in his father's lap, and to clasp a hand over his eyes after he is supposedly dead? Why is one Palestinian policeman wearing a Secret Service-style earpiece in one ear? Why is another Palestinian man shown waving his arms and yelling at others, as if 'directing' a dramatic scene? Why does the funeral appear — based on the length of shadows — to have occurred before the apparent time of the shooting? Why is there no blood on the father's shirt just after they are shot? Why did a voice that seems to be that of the France 2 cameraman yell, in Arabic, 'The boy is dead' before he had been hit? Why do ambulances appear instantly for seemingly everyone else and not for al-Dura?" 
In October 2004, journalists Denis Jeambar, Daniel Leconte and Luc Rosenzweig (a former chief editor of Le Monde and currently a Metula News Agency (Mena) contributor) met with Arlette Chabot of France 2 to review the complete film. After the viewing, on October 22, 2004, Mena repeated earlier claims that the incident had been staged. Mena editor-in-chief Stéphane Juffa noted that though Abu Rahma had filmed about 27 minutes of footage, France 2 had previously only shown about 55 seconds of film and later released about three minutes and 26 seconds of material to the Israeli army. Enderlin had told the French monthly Télérama in October 2000 that "I cut the child's death throes. It was too unbearable," but Juffa claimed that there were no such death throes in the footage. On November 26, 2004, a similar (better translated) article on the topic by Juffa entitled The Mythical Martyr was published in The Wall Street Journal Europe.  In both articles Juffa claimed that Didier Epelbaum, an adviser to the president of France Télévisions (the department presiding over all French state-operated TV networks including France 2), had stated that Abu Rahma (the cameraman) had retracted his testimony that the Israelis had shot al-Durrah in cold blood.
To defend itself against the charges, in the fall of 2004 France 2 filed a series of defamation complaints against some of its critics, but it did not name individuals, labeling them as "X." The station's lawyer, Bénédicte Amblard, said that France 2 followed this strategy because of the difficulties of legally identifying the owners of Web sites. In October 2004 the station filmed the boy's father in an Amman hospital showing scars on his right arm and upper right leg, but critics like Rosenzweig demanded an independent medical expert's opinion. The station also held a news conference in November 2004, with enlarged pictures of of al-Durrah and his father, in order to answer questions of critics who claimed no blood was visible. According to Arlette Chabot, the station's deputy general director "It's a crazy story. Every time we address one question, then another question surfaces. It's very difficult to fight a rumor. The point is that four years later, no one can say for certain who killed him, Palestinians or Israelis."
On January 25, 2005, in Le Figaro,  Jeambar and Leconte (like Rosenzweig) refuted Enderlin's longstanding explanation of why the footage of the killing was brief and apparently truncated, stating that the "unbearable" images of al-Durrah's "death throes" did not exist. Instead they noted that in the 27 minutes of tape "Palestinians seem to be organizing a staged event. They 'play' at war with the Israelis and simulate, in most of the cases, imaginary injuries."  However, Jeambar and Leconte indicated that, although questions were indeed raised as to why Enderlin accused the Israeli Army of shooting the boy, and spoke of images showing his agony, the film produced by France 2 did not allow one to conclude that the death of the boy was faked: "To those, like Mena, who wanted to use us to support the thesis of that the death of the child was faked by the Palestinians, we say that they are misguided, and are misguiding their readers. Not only do we not share this point of view, but we affirm that based on the knowledge of the file we have today, nothing allows us to affirm this, much to the contrary." In a February 1, 2005 radio interview Jeambar and Leconte described the original reports that Israelis shot al-Durrah as "false", though they reiterated their earlier statements that there was no reason to believe the death of Muhammad al-Durrah had been faked. Jeambar did note, however, that 24 minutes of the footage consisted of nothing but Palestinian youths faking being wounded and then running off, and ambulances evacuating uninjured people. 
On February 15, 2005, Leconte further clarified his views in an interview with the Cybercast News Service. He insisted that al-Durrah had been shot from the Palestinian position: "The only ones who could hit the child were the Palestinians from their position. If they had been Israeli bullets, they would be very strange bullets because they would have needed to go around the corner." He dismissed an earlier claim by France 2 that the gunshots that struck al-Durrah were bullets that ricocheted off the ground, stating "It could happen once, but that there should be eight or nine of them, which go around a corner? They're just saying anything." He also confirmed Juffa's claim that Abu Rahma (the cameraman) had retracted his testimony. However, France 2 communications director Christine Delavennat said that Abu Rahma never retracted his testimony, but rather "denied making a statement - falsely attributed to him by a human rights group [the Palestine Centre for Human Rights] - to the effect that the Israeli army fired at the boy in cold blood." Finally, Leconte continued to insist that the shootings had not been faked, stating "At the moment of the shooting, it's no longer acting, there's really shooting, there's no doubt about that." 
- Israel 'sorry' for killing boy (BBC)
- Eyewitness: Anger and mourning in Gaza (BBC)
- Boy becomes Palestinian martyr (BBC)
- Israeli ambassador defends troops (BBC)
- In full: Al-Qaeda statement (BBC)
- Statement under oath by France 2 photographer, Talal Abu Rahma, who witnessed the shooting
- Amnesty International report (PDF)
- Video of the shooting (contains graphic content) (Real Video format)
- Mohammed al-Durra (Time Magazine)
- James Fallows: "Who shot Mohammed Al-Dura?"; The Atlantic Monthly (republished by FrontPageMagazine.com)
- Metula News Agency: "The Al-Dura case : a dramatic conclusion"
- Gérard Huber: Contre-expertise d'une mise en scène; Editions Raphael, 2003 (ISBN 2877810666) -- French book arguing that al-Durrah was never killed
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