Hamas paid a Gazan family to falsely claim their baby died from inhaling tear gas used by Israel during violent riots at the Gaza Strip border last month, according to a relative.
The family of Layla Ghandour, who was reported to be eight or nine months old, initially claimed that she had died because of tear gas fired by the Israeli military to dispel mobs attempting to breach the border dividing Israel and Gaza, the Times of Israel reported.
However, 20-year-old Mahmoud Omar, the baby's cousin, told Israeli authorities during an interrogation that the baby died of a similar blood disease that killed her brother in 2017, according to an indictment that prosecutors filed Thursday.
Omar, who was indicted for trying to infiltrate Israel and take part in terrorist activities, said that Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, paid the baby's family the equivalent of $2,206 to lie about the circumstances of her death.
The baby's mother, Mariam al-Ghandour, said, "The Israelis killed her," in an AFP article published May 15. The Times of Israel noted her funeral "was filmed and featured on global TV news broadcasts and newspaper front pages."
The story of Ghandour's death and the initial claim of Israeli responsibility dominated hostile media coverage during the Gaza riots. Multiple media outlets accepted the family's initial characterization without question, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
"Palestinian baby dies from tear gas inhalation at Gaza border," read The Hill headline, citing Reuters. "A baby girl dies in the haze of Gaza," reported the Los Angeles Times. "Horror: Baby Killed In Israeli Crackdown" read the front page of HuffPost. "A funeral is taking place for an 8-month-old Palestinian baby who died after Israel fired tear gas into Gaza," tweeted Al Jazeera. "Toll for Gaza protests rises to 61 as baby dies from tear gas, with more protests expected," reported the Washington Post.
A Gaza doctor at the time also said Ghandour had a pre-existing condition and did not die because of tear gas.
Omar, a member of Fatah's armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, was captured alongside one of his two accomplices as they tried to cut through the border fence to carry out an attack inside Israel. He was indicted on an array of terrorism charges. The U.S. considers Hamas and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades to be terrorist organizations.
Israel received condemnation for its military response to the violent, Hamas-led demonstrations at the Gaza border, as part of the "March of Return." A report found that more than 80 percent of the Palestinians killed from March 30 to May 15 were either terror operatives or affiliated with terror groups.