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Hamas Paid Family To Say Baby Died During Gaza Border Clashes, Not From Illness

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hamas paid the family of an 8-month-old baby to say she died during clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops, a family member said.

Mahmoud Omar, 20, told Israeli investigators that his 8-month-old cousin Layla al-Ghandour died of a blood disease, the same disease the baby’s brother died from a year earlier. He said he heard about his cousin’s death while protesting at the border in early May.

The information was contained in testimony by Omar, filed as part of an indictment in Beersheba District Court on Thursday. Omar, who was captured attempting to infiltrate Israel through the Gaza border fence, was charged with several security offenses, including membership in a terrorist organization, terrorist activity and attempted infiltration, according to Hadashot news. He reportedly is a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which promised financial aid to his family.

Omar testified that Hamas paid his aunt Mariam and her husband Anwar 8,000 shekel, or about $2,200 to say that their daughter had died from exposure to tear gas at the border protests.

The death of the baby inflamed Palestinian passions and led to a deluge of condemnation against Israel for its heavy-handed response to the border protests. At least 120 Palestinian protesters, including dozens of members of local terror groups, have been killed during the more than two months of protests, according to Gaza officials.

The New York Times had reported last month “The Ghandour family acknowledged that Layla suffered from patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart disease commonly described as a hole in the heart.”

In mid-May, the Gaza Health Ministry removed Layla from the list of those killed during border clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops.

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at fisher@forward.com, or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher

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