A report presented to a French court last week by an independent ballistics expert maintains that the death of Mohammed al-Dura, a Palestinian child seen being shot in the Gaza Strip during the first day of the intifada in September 2000, could not have been the result of Israeli gunfire, corroborating claims that the shocking footage was doctored.
The ballistics expert, Jean-Claude Schlinger, presented his conclusions after reviewing the footage, which shows Dura and his father cowering by a wall after being caught in the crossfire between Palestinian gunmen and Israel Defense Forces soldiers at the Netzarim junction.
The case revolves around a libel suit brought by the France 2 television channel and its Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, against Phillipe Karsenty. On November 22, 2004 Karsenty wrote on his Web site, Media Ratings, that Dura’s death had been staged and that France 2’s conduct “disgraces France and its public broadcasting system.”
A few weeks later France 2 and Enderlin sued him for libel. In October 2006 Karsenty was found guilty and was required to pay symbolic damages of 1 euro (and 3,000 euros in court costs).
Karsenty appealed. The judge asked to examine all of the film footage in the report of the shooting before rendering a verdict.
On Saturday, Enderlin rejected Schlinger’s findings, arguing that “only partial evidence was given to him for evaluation.”
In his report, Schlinger wrote, “If Jamal [the boy’s father] and Mohammed al-Dura were indeed struck by shots, then they could not have come from the Israeli position, from a technical point of view, but only from the direction of the Palestinian position.”
He also wrote, “In view of the general context, and in light of many instances of staged incidents, there is no objective evidence that the child was killed and his father injured. It is very possible, therefore, that it is a case [in which the incident was] staged.”
Schlinger confirmed these statements in a telephone conversation with Haaretz.
Schlinger has served as an adviser on ballistic and forensic evidence in French courts for 20 years.
In his examination, he recreated the incident emphasizing the angle from which the shots could have been fired, the types of injuries and the types of weapons used by the IDF and the Palestinians.
According to his report, there is no evidence that the boy was wounded in his right leg or in his abdomen, as was originally reported.
Regarding the injuries reportedly suffered by the father, Schlinger wrote that “If the injuries are genuine, they could not have occurred at the time of the events that television channel France 2 reported.”
Regarding the angle of the shots, Schlinger wrote, “Assuming that the shots came from the Israeli position, only the lower limbs could have been hit, because the rest of the body was protected by the house at the location.”
This is the first time that an independent ballistics expert, not representing the State of Israel, undertook to examine Karsenty’s claims.