Rights group investigating if 8-month-old was ‘martyred’ amid clashes between Israeli forces and Hamas

Leila al-Ghandour (Twitter)

An 8-month-old girl was the youngest victim of the at least 63 reportedly killed on Monday in fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters, the child’s family has said. The death is said to have occurred as live ammunition and tear gas was used to break up protests on the Gaza-Israel border. But doctors in Gaza have not confirmed the baby’s death was actually caused by exposure to tear gas, The Associated Press reported. At least 110 Palestinians have died in the fighting since protests began in late March, and more than 2,500 have been injured over that time

The family of the infant, Leila al-Ghandour, said that the girl’s 12-year-old uncle had mistakenly brought the baby, which some reports indicated was 9 months old, near the border during the confusion as thousands were shot in the legs by Israeli snipers trying to stop an estimated 40,000 protesters from advancing on the border or from throwing stones. According to the family, the baby was suffocated by tear gas dropped by an Israeli drone.

The baby’s mother, 17-year-old Mariam al-Ghandour, made no public statement but could be seen crying as her family discussed the child’s death with reporters. Her husband, Anwar, said that his daughter should be honored as a “martyr.”

“She is not the first martyr for Palestine and she won’t be the last,” he said. “Her sacrifice is for Jerusalem and for the homeland.”

But health officials in Gaza are cautioning that the baby’s death was likely caused by pre-existing medical conditions. One doctor, speaking anonymously with The Associated Press, said he believed the tear gas did not kill al-Ghandour, and that she died from underlying health conditions. He spoke anonymously because he’s not authorized to disclose medical information to the media. Al Mezan, a humans rights group said it is investigating. Meanwhile, news of the child’s death is fueling outrage on social media.

The protests came in response to the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem, a reversal of decades of American policy that has been hailed by Israeli and American religious conservatives. Meanwhile, Palestine decried the move as evidence that the U.S. will not act impartially in determining the region’s future. Israeli military officials have denied responsibility for the baby’s death, claiming that they “have several accounts that question the validity” of the family’s claim but declined to give any further details. U.S. officials have similarly absolved the Israeli military of any blame for the violence at large, saying that the responsibility was on Hamas for inciting the protests in the first place. According to The Associated Press, Hamas has said most of those who have died in the fighting this week were members of the militant group. Israel has sent

Read the full story at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Associated Press.


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