French court sees footage of al-Dura

Footage inconclusive; activist Philippe Karsenty, who sparked lawsuit, was present.

Muhammad al-Dura 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Muhammad al-Dura 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
More than seven years after Muhammad al-Dura, 12, was apparently shot to death during clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen at Gaza's Netzarim junction, a small packed courtroom in the Palais de Justice here viewed raw footage of the incident Wednesday. Among those present in court were Charles Enderlin, the Israel correspondent for the France 2 TV station whose original report of the September 2000 incident blamed Israel for the killing, and Philippe Karsenty, the director of the media watchdog group Media-Ratings, whose assertion that France 2's coverage was "a hoax" sparked the ongoing legal battle. Members of the French media did not appear to be present among the approximately 60-strong audience; some members of the public could not get into the small room where the uncut footage provided by France 2 was screened from 2:15 p.m. to 4 p.m. Although the footage itself ran for a total of 18 minutes, it was stopped at several points so Enderlin could comment on what was happening. The footage shown in court, however, was inconclusive. Toward the end, the tape appeared to show Dura briefly putting his hand to his forehead to check what was happening around him, and moving his leg. The footage also featured his father shouting out, "Muhammad is dead! Muhammad is dead!" Enderlin said after the hearing that France 2 had produced all the raw footage it had, based on "an original tape that was kept in a safe until now. We presented a DVD that was made in front of a bailiff from the original tape... not from the various copies you can find here and there." France 2's original September 30, 2000, broadcast showed 55 seconds of edited footage from the Netzarim junction. Enderlin was not present at the junction, but voiced over the footage according to information given to him by cameraman Talal Abu Rahma. He explained in his news report that the footage showed a father and his son caught in a gunfight and that the boy was killed by shots coming from the IDF position at the Netzarim junction. France 2 offered the video for free to other television stations. Wednesday's hearing followed a September demand from the French appeals court judge that France 2 show it the raw video footage of the events. Following the incident, al-Dura became an instant icon for Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israeli brutality. However, the IDF, which initially apologized for the death, concluded after an investigation that the boy could not have been hit by Israeli bullets. When Karsenty branded France 2's video of the incident a hoax, he was sued and found guilty of slander. His appeal prompted the current legal battle. Two months ago, the deputy commander of the IDF Spokesman's Office, Col. Shlomi Am-Shalom, wrote to France 2 asking for the unedited footage. Am-Shalom stressed that the IDF had "ruled out" the notion that al-Dura was killed by Israeli fire. The case is set to resume on February 27.