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Twitter flap obscures details of Gaza girl's death
Published Tuesday 27/03/2012 (updated) 01/04/2012 09:31
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An Israeli ambassador wants the UN to fire an employee for tweeting a graphic
photograph of a girl who died in the aftermath of a 2006 airstrike on Gaza City.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel is calling for the UN to sack an employee for misrepresenting a photograph of a dead Palestinian child, while rights groups and relatives maintain her death in 2006 was the result of an airstrike.

UN humanitarian employee Khulood Badawi posted the bloody image of Raja Abu Shaban amid renewed strikes on Gaza on March 12. Her caption read: “Palestine is bleeding. Another child killed by #Israel”.

Ten days later, Israel’s ambassador to the UN wrote to OCHA under-secretary Valerie Amos calling for Badawi’s dismissal for “hate speech,” a post on his office’s Facebook account said.

“The picture was taken and published in 2006 by Reuters, which reported that this child died in an accident. She was not killed by Israeli forces,” Ron Prosor wrote, according to Fox News.

Death linked to 2006 airstrike

Raja, 2, arrived dead to Shifa hospital on Aug. 9, 2006, around the same time as the bodies of two members of the Popular Resistance Committees, after an airstrike in Gaza City.

The Israeli army insists the airstrike was not in any way linked to her death, but medical records, interviews with relatives of the girl, and news reports from that day suggest otherwise.

“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.

’Nothing to do with Israeli action’

These and other details surrounding the girl's death have been lost in the controversy.

The Israeli army's position also remains unchanged. The day after Badawi’s tweet, the army's blog posted that Raja’s death “had nothing at all to do with Israeli action.”

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed Sunday the post represented its official position.

Although no military investigation was ever opened into her death, the post was based on a corrected Reuters photo caption from 2006, an army spokeswoman said.

“Palestinian officials declared she was not killed by Israeli forces,” the official said, referring to the caption its blog sourced to an Israeli tweeter named Avi Mayer.

Reuters issued the caption correction on Aug. 10, 2006.

It states: “The three-year-old girl who had been reported killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Wednesday actually died of an accident, Palestinian medical workers said on Thursday.”

The story accompanying that photo elaborates that while the missile which killed two PRC operatives did not itself strike Raja, health officials considered the deaths closely related.

“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,” the Reuters story says.

"He believed the girl had fallen because of the sound of the blast," the story explains, and it quoted him saying that Raja "was not killed directly from the air strike".

Outrage, and anguish

Despite the connections between the airstrike and Raja’s deadly fall, Israeli officials have continued to express outrage at the tweet using her photo.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called Badawi’s tweet a “false description that demonizes Israel through a furious fabrication of facts,” in a Facebook post slamming the UN.

Raja’s father has another reason for dismay.

“To bring up my daughter’s picture again six years after her death caused me grief and anguish,” Salam Abu Shaban told Ma’an.

Abu Shaban, who still hopes to seek redress for his daughter’s death in Israeli courts, believes Badawi’s misattribution of the photo was an innocent mistake.

"But when supporters of Israel used this against her I was furious," he said.

"Why do they have to blow up this tragedy again?"

Keyan Saifi contributed to this report
1 ) Julie / USA
27/03/2012 06:08
the ONLY one who 'demonizes' izrahell is IZRAHELL !!!! if they don't like that an innocent child was murdered indirectly by THEIR OWN ACTIONS, then they should STOP BOMBING in densely populated areas !!! this is a war crime!!!!

2 ) Colin Wright / USA
27/03/2012 07:42
As the New York Times points out, Israel's pretended outrage would be a little more defensible if she didn't chronically practice the same deception herself. See some of the photos submitted as 'proof' that the members of the flotilla were carrying arms.

3 ) Colin Wright / USA
27/03/2012 07:43
To Julie #1 'if they don't like that an innocent child was murdered indirectly by THEIR OWN ACTIONS, then they should STOP BOMBING in densely populated areas !!! this is a war crime!!!!' The flaw in your logic is fairly obvious: Israel DOES like it when they kill an innocent child. They go out of their way to do it.

4 ) Colin Wright / USA
27/03/2012 07:46
'...a “false description that demonizes Israel through a furious fabrication of facts,” ...' One would think that Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesmen could at least be literate: 'furious fabrication'?

5 ) bobz / palestine
27/03/2012 08:51
The israeli extremeness is reaching levels these days that will bring it to an end!!! let them express themselves... all you need to do is read their racist comments on articles, youtube videos, their official tweets on twitter etc, and they are exposed... they r racist, and being exposed more and more everyday

6 ) Julie / USA
27/03/2012 09:20
#3 Colin, it's not a flaw in my logic, it's a flaw in theirs ;) clearly, the fact that they keep bombing indeed attests to their liking the murder of all innocents, including children...and infants, and elderly, and non-combatants... etc etc. see the point i was trying to make? izraelis will falsely claim they don't like that an innocent child died from their bomb, then blame Pals for it as part of their twisting facts. my comment was to show they can't claim this without exposing their lies

7 ) Stuart / Scotland
27/03/2012 10:33
I look forward to Israel explaining how they had nothing to do with the deaths of 400 children in Gaza in the 2008/09 assault

8 ) Arnold / Canada
27/03/2012 21:51
Even when proof is clearly shown you fools side step the facts and find other excuses to crap on Israel. You are the same as the boy who cried wolf. Wolf, wolf, wolf, wolf.

9 ) Outsider / EU
28/03/2012 09:23
So the kid was not hit directly by a shell. This shell was nonetheless directly responsible for her fall.

10 ) ? / ?
28/03/2012 11:07
israel is saying this had nothing to with them. palestinians were saying her death is a result of the last round of fighting, and after this lie was exposed, changed their version to "israel killed her on 6 years ago"?!

11 ) Israil always lie / Palestine
28/03/2012 15:13
In 2008 war Israel killed more than 1500 palestinians most of them are women and children, Israel are greate in lie in distort the truth, and thier load of mony and power give them the ability to distort history and truths.

12 ) southparkbear / usa
29/03/2012 09:21
hehehe a flap, what a nice way to say a lie

13 ) Tony B? / ME
29/03/2012 17:06
Typical. Even this report is an attempt to divert attention away from the fact that a UN employee used lying propaganda to smear Israel's recent and justifiable self defence against constant rocket fire from Gaza. The issue is not how this girl was killed. It is that he attempted to mislead the world into believing she died as a result of recent Israeli air strikes. We should remember, her death was an accident. Gazans deliberately fire rockets at Israeli children on school buses. No accident!

14 ) ian / australia
29/03/2012 22:06
The macabre irony is that the photo of Raja Abu Shaban could be easily replaced with one of any of the hundreds of children Israel happily admits to killing in which case, Ron Proser would presumably drop the ridiculous "hate speech" charge! Bottom line: without the airstrike, the liitle girl would, in all likelihood, still be alive and so should be counted among the martyrs. The only "hate" here is coming from the side prepared to use the sad event for this cheap political stunt!

15 ) Chris / USA
30/03/2012 06:15
A terrorist squad was launching rockets at Israeli civilians from about 100 feet away from the swings. She fell of the swings when she was startled by one of the rockets when it was launched. Hamas caused the accident that killed the girl but then it is their tactic to use children as human shields. The medics in Gaza must write what they are told, otherwise they are subject to the death penalty for "treason".

16 ) ? / ?
31/03/2012 19:15
dont any of you get that even if it was Israel's false she died 6 years ago, its still the palestinian side that is the lier here since her pic was used as a "a child martyr of last round of fighting"!!! adding that to the case of Muhammad al-Helou reported after "when a power cut caused his breathing apparatus to switch off" declaring him as the "first victim of the current power crisis in Gaza." only then to find out he died 3 weeks earlier in his home
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