A 20-year-old Palestinian indicted Thursday on terror-related charges told Israeli authorities that the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, paid his relatives to falsely tell the media that his baby cousin died of tear gas inhalation during the Hamas-orchestrated border riots.
The Times of Israel reported that Mahmoud Omar was arrested along with another member of Fatah’s armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, when they attempted to breach the fence and torch an unmanned IDF post.
During his interrogation, the suspect disclosed to investigators that he was related to Layla Ghandour, the 8-month-old baby whose death on May 14 was originally reported to have been caused by inhalation of tear gas sprayed by the Israeli military during the riots at the border fence.
Her death dominated international headlines – becoming one of the central elements of reporting on Palestinian opposition to the May 14 inauguration of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem – and intensified global criticism of Israel’s response to the Hamas-orchestrated riots.
Omar told authorities that he was part of the 40,000 men-strong crowd that rioted on the day of the opening of the embassy, when his mother called to inform him that his baby cousin had died. Omar was told that she had died of a blood disease, which had also claimed the life of the deceased infant’s brother in 2017.
Omar further revealed to Israeli investigators that Hamas used the opportunity to turn the infant’s strategic death into a cynical propaganda strategy to harm the reputation of the Jewish State. According to his account, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar paid Layla’s parents, Miriam and Anwar Ghandour, NIS 8,000 ($2,206) to tell the media that the infant had died due to inhaling tear gas sprayed by Israeli forces.
Thursday’s indictment was filed a month after the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said the infant’s death remains under investigation. However, doctors in Gaza have raised doubts over the ministry’s claims, charging that Leyla had suffered from a serious pre-existing medical condition which led to her death.
The Israeli military disputed the circumstances of her death at the time. A spokesperson said that “contrary to the unequivocal Palestinian announcement, we have evidence that undermines the credibility of the Palestinian Ministry of Health’s announcement regarding the death of the baby.”
[Photo: euronews (in English) / YouTube ]