It is set to become one of the iconic images of the conflict. Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Kandil kissing the forehead of a boy supposedly killed by an Israeli airstrike.
It is a heartbreaking picture, and I say this as someone staunchly pro-Israel and supportive of air strikes on Gaza.
An image like this can leave an indelible mark on the average person with little knowledge of the conflict and why Israel launched air strikes to begin with.
But if you look deeper, you discover that not all is what it seems.
Only one problem: he was killed by a Hamas rocket that fell short in Gaza.
There is a lot of evidence for this. Read the New York Times’ account of his death:
The Abu Wardah family woke up on Friday morning to word that a hudna — Arabic for cease-fire — had been declared during the three-hour visit of the Egyptian prime minister to this embattled territory. So, after two days of huddling indoors to avoid intensifying Israeli air assaults, Abed Abu Wardah, the patriarch, went to the market to buy fruits and vegetables. His 22-year-old son, Aiman, took an empty blue canister to be refilled with cooking gas. The younger children of their neighborhood, Annazla, in this town north of Gaza City went out to the dirt alley to kick a soccer ball.
But around 9:45 a.m., family members and neighbors said, an explosion struck a doorway near the Abu Wardah home, killing Aiman Abu Wardah as he returned from his errand, as well as Mahmoud Sadallah, 4, who lived next door and had refused his older cousin’s pleas to stay indoors.
It is unclear who was responsible for the strike on Annazla: the damage was nowhere near severe enough to have come from an Israeli F-16, raising the possibility that an errant missile fired by Palestinian militants was responsible for the deaths. What seems clear is that expectations for a pause in the fighting, for at least one family, were tragically misplaced.
The IDF did not launch any airstrikes in Gaza while Egyptian PM Kandil was in Gaza. AP adds:
Mahmoud Sadallah, the 4-year-old Gaza boy whose death moved Egypt’s prime minister to tears, was from the town of Jebaliya, close to Gaza City.
The boy died Friday in hotly disputed circumstances. The boy’s aunt, Hanan Sadallah, and his grief-stricken father Iyad — weak from crying and leaning on others to walk — said Mahmoud was killed in an Israeli airstrike. Hamas security officials also made that claim.
Israel vehemently denied involvement, saying it had not carried out any attacks in the area at the time.
Mahmoud’s family said the boy was in an alley close to his home when he was killed, along with a man of about 20, but no one appeared to have witnessed the strike. The area showed signs that a projectile might have exploded there, with shrapnel marks in the walls of surrounding homes and a shattered kitchen window. But neighbors said local security officials quickly took what remained of the projectile, making it impossible to verify who fired it.
If it was an Israeli missile, you can be sure that it would have been shown to the media! Furthermore, PCHR, which is keeping track of everyone killed in Gaza (and which admits that most of the dead have been “militants,”) did not list Mahmoud Sadalha or Aiman Aby Wardah in their list of victims of Israeli airstrikes, although they even include one person who died of a heart attack.
Put this together with the fact that Hamas and other terror groups were firing rockets throughout Friday morning while the IDF did not, plus the fact that over 100 rockets have fallen short in Gaza (both using past performance and IDF statistics as proof), and the fact that the shrapnel in the video matches almost exactly the shrapnel damage we have seen from rocket fire into Israel, and it is very clear: this child was killed by Gaza rocket fire, not by Israel.
Update: Confirmation here:
But there were signs on Saturday that not all the Palestinian casualties have been the result of Israeli air strikes. The highly publicised death of four-year-old Mohammed Sadallah appeared to have been the result of a misfiring home-made rocket, not a bomb dropped by Israel.
The child’s death on Friday figured prominently in media coverage after Hisham Kandil, the Egyptian prime minister, was filmed lifting his dead body out of an ambulance. “The boy, the martyr, whose blood is still on my hands and clothes, is something that we cannot keep silent about,” he said, before promising to defend the Palestinian people.
But experts from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights who visited the site on Saturday said they believed that the explosion was caused by a Palestinian rocket.
Sharif Khalah, 26, was standing at the end of the alleyway by the road when the explosion happened.
“Suddenly there was this whistling noise, a whoosh and then bang,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.”I couldn’t see anything for about 10 minutes because there was so much dust and smoke. Then I saw the little boy.”
Less than 24 hours after her youngest son’s death, Esmat Sadallah, Mohammed’s mother, was too bereft to apportion blame. It was possible he was struck by a rocket fired by Palestinian fighters, she said. It was also possible he was killed in an Israeli strike, she added, although nobody had heard the sound of a drone or plane in the sky just before the explosion.