Gaza ministry removes baby from list of people killed by Israeli army

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry has said it has removed an eight-month-old baby from a list of people killed by Israeli troops while authorities investigate to determine the cause of death.

The ministry announced last week that Leila al-Ghandour died from teargas inhalation during a 14 May demonstration along the frontier, where it said Israeli fire killed more than 60 people.

A doctor was later anonymously cited by the Associated Press as saying the infant had a pre-existing medical condition and that he did not believe teargas caused her death.

Ministry spokesperson Dr Ashraf al-Qidra said an investigation was being carried out by the justice ministry. “Leila al-Ghandour is not listed among the martyrs, because we are still waiting for the report,” he said.

“The baby arrived to the hospital dead, and the family said she was there at the border and she inhaled teargas,” he added. “It wasn’t clear in the beginning whether she died because of that or not. That’s why we referred the case.”

He said 112 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli soldiers during the two-month protest movement, which has sought to lift a decade-long blockade on the coastal enclave.

“It is a very sensitive issue,” he added. “The occupation [Israel] wants to prove she wasn’t killed by teargas. I am not saying she was, but this needs more investigation.”

Israel’s military has disputed Palestinian accounts, although it has not presented additional evidence.

“What the [Israel Defense Forces] has is reason to doubt,” said Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, an IDF spokesman. “This is based on intelligence and on various reports that the baby was suffering from a previous condition and she did not die from inhaling smoke.”

Leila’s family has blamed the Israeli army for her death. The New York Times cited the family as saying the child suffered from patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart disease.

A copy of an initial hospital report seen by the Guardian said the infant had heart defects since birth and suffered a “severe stop in blood circulation and respiration”. It did not say if teargas inhalation had contributed to her death.

Israel has rejected repeated calls for independent investigations into the bloodshed and claims its use of live fire is legal and warranted.

The country’s supreme court rejected a challenge on Thursday that had been brought by six human rights groups calling for an end to the use of live fire against unarmed civilians.

In a unanimous ruling by three judges, the court upheld the Israeli military’s use of lethal force, saying the protests were part of an armed conflict with Hamas.


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