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Israel rejects France 2 findings on Dura affair

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks as he sits next to Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit during a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israel, Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Ronen Zvulun, Pool)

JERUSALEM: Israel said on Sunday a France 2 television report seen worldwide on the death of a Palestinian child in 2000 was "baseless", following an analysis of the raw footage.

The report, bolstering the Israeli political and military stance on the Mohammed al-Dura affair, comes ahead of a ruling in Paris on a defamation case between France 2 reporter Charles Enderlin and Philippe Karsenty, director of watchdog group Media Ratings.

Enderlin's reportage shows the death of 12-year-old Mohammed in the arms of his father Jamal al-Dura on September 30, 2000 after being caught in crossfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants at the start of the second intifada, or uprising.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the findings of the 40-page Israeli report by the ministry of international affairs and strategy on the incident as "truth" that could "prevail over lies."

"It is important to focus on this incident - which has slandered Israel's reputation," he said in a statement accompanying the report.

"This is a manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimize Israel. There is only one way to counter lies, and that is through the truth," said Netanyahu.

"The France 2 report's central claims and accusations had no basis in the material which the station had in its possession at the time of the report," reads the report commissioned by Netanyahu in September 2012.

"Contrary to the report's claim that the boy is killed, the committee's review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy is seen to be alive," it says.

France 2 did not provide the original raw footage of the incident, said Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the ministry of international affairs and strategy who penned the report.

"We asked France 2 for the original footage many times, if we had it we could have known more things," he told AFP.

"The review revealed that there is no evidence that Jamal or the boy were wounded in the manner claimed in the (France 2) report, and that the footage does not depict Jamal as having been badly injured," read Kuperwasser's report. "In contrast, there are numerous indications that the two were not struck by bullets at all."

The report notes it was "highly-doubtful that bullet holes in the vicinity of the two could have had their source in fire from the Israeli position, as implied in the France 2 report."

In response to an AFP query Enderlin, the Jerusalem correspondent for the television channel that broadcast the original news report, said: "We are ready for an independent public inquiry."

"We have always said, including to the supreme court, that we were ready for an independent public inquiry by international standards."

Meanwhile, Jamal Al-Dura told AFP the Israeli report was "completely fabricated."

"The Israelis are lying and trying to cover the truth," he said, adding he had requested the formation of an international commission of inquiry, including his family and the Israelis.

The footage of Mohammed held in his father's arms near a Gaza crossroads became a central component in the media war between Israel and the Palestinians.

Karsenty was convicted of defamation in 2006 for accusing France 2 of doctoring the images in the original report, but the ruling was overturned in 2008.

An appeals court in Paris will issue its final ruling on the affair on Wednesday.

 

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