Israel stands by debunked story of Palestinian child’s death

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Khalood Badawi (Photo: Luis Jaume)

A Palestinian working for the United Nations, Khulood Badawi, is at the center of a raging controversy over her March 12 tweet about a three-year-old Palestinian girl who died as a result of an Israeli attack in 2006.  

During Israel’s latest air strike in Gaza, Badawi, an employee of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, tweeted a graphic image of the dead girl, Raja Abu Shaban, and wrote: “Palestine is bleeding. Another child killed by #Israel. Another father carrying his child to a grave in #Gaza.” 

After the photograph circulated, hasbara-ites started an online petition calling for the UN to “immediately terminate” Badawi, claiming, “Badawi has proven unreliable as a source of information by using her Twitter account to spread false and harmful information about Israel.”  That same day, March 15,  the Israeli ambassador to the UN, and the IDF also called for the UN to fire Badawi, saying that she inaccurately attributed the death to Israel.

Screen shot 2012 03 27 at 4 16 41 PM
Screen shot of Israel’s UN Twitter account tweeting for Khulood Badawi’s dismissal from the UN.

However, on Monday Ma’an News Agency reported Israeli missiles were indeed responsible for the young girl’s death.

Despite the new information, Israeli officials are still calling for the UN to dismiss Badawi, maintaining Israel had no involvement in her death. 

Ma’an now states: “medical records, interviews with relatives of the girl, and news reports from that day suggest otherwise.”

Last weekend Ma’an interviewed the family and human rights groups regarding the photograph:

‘Israeli rockets fell near the house, causing the playground slide to fall on top of her,’ Raja’s father Salam Abu Shaban said Sunday, pointing out the strike occurred less than 200 meters away. Her mother agreed.

The cause of death registered in a hospital medical report, seen by Ma’an, from that day in 2006 concludes that Raja died ‘due to falling from a high area during the Israeli strike on Gaza.’

It notes: ‘The Gaza prosecutor registered her as a martyr,’ a term commonly used to describe Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

Human rights organizations also say Raja died after the impact of the explosions. Israeli and Palestinian groups maintain her fall was the result of the army activity targeting militants in a nearby field.

In a register of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces, the rights group B’Tselem reports that Raja ‘fell off a swing and bumped her head when a missile fired by the IDF hit an orchard 100 meters from the house.’

Recent investigations have re-confirmed this account, B’Tselem official Sarit Michaeli said Sunday.

Research by the Gaza-based rights group Al Mezan, in the days after Raja’s death, also found the impact of the strike caused her to fall, the rights group confirmed Saturday.

‘While the (Israeli army) did not target the girl directly, they launched an attack with three missiles on a densely populated area, which caused the death of the girl, the injury of three civilians and the damage of several houses in the area,’ Al Mezan noted in a statement.

The photograph that was circulated is a graphic image of three-year-old Raja Abu Shaban who died after falling from a swing, indirectly from Israeli missiles in 2006. In a correction that same year, Reuters reported with the picture:

The head of the Palestinian ambulance service, Muawiyah Hassanein, said the girl fell from a swing at her home near the scene of the attack that killed two gunmen. He believed the girl had fallen because of the sound of the blast.


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