Media Blame Israel for Death of Palestinian Child Who Doctor Says Died of Pre-Existing Condition

Palestinian boy holding national flag looks at clashes with Israeli forces near Gaza-Israel border / Getty Images
May 16, 2018

Progressives and various media outlets placed the blame for the death of a Palestinian baby on Israeli Defense Forces, but a Palestinian doctor has since said he thinks tear gas had nothing to do with it.

Laila al-Ghandour–reported by some outlets as being eight months old and by others as nine months old–was indeed present at a protest along the Gaza border Monday and died shortly after Israel shot tear gas over the fence to disperse a crowd. "When we got back home, the baby stopped crying and I thought she was asleep. I took her to the children’s hospital and the doctor told me she was martyred," her grandmother told Reuters. She claimed doctors had told her the baby died from inhaling tear gas, and the Gaza Strip's Hamas-run health ministry reported the baby among those killed during the violent protests.

"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.

Liberal commenters also laid the blame for al-Ghandour's death on Israel's doorstep.

But the Associated Press soon after reported that "Gaza health officials are casting doubt on initial claims that a 9-month-old baby died from Israeli tear gas fired during mass protests on the Gaza border with Israel."

"A medical doctor said Tuesday that the baby, Layla Ghaben, had a pre-existing medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas," the wire read. "He spoke on condition of anonymity because of he was not allowed to disclose medical information to the media."

A Gaza human rights group, Al Mezan, said it was investigating the circumstances of the baby's death. Her family said her presence near the protests was the result of a mix-up.

Many of the outlets that initially reported on the claim corrected their stories, although The Hill story remains uncorrected. The Washington Post story has been updated to note that the medical doctor disputes the claim she died of tear gas, but the paper did not issue a correction.

Published under: Gaza , Hamas , Israel , Media