The Hamas Health Ministry in Gaza announced Friday that the name of an eight-month-old baby has been crossed off the official list of people killed during recent deadly border riots, pending further investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death.
Last week it was reported that the baby, identified as Leila al-Ghandour, was killed after inhaling tear gas during the bloodiest day of the violent protests, which left over 60 Gazans dead as thousands descended on the border where many engaged in violent activities and attempted to breach it.
The Associated Press later learned that the little girl had been suffering from a pre-existing medical condition and that her death could not be attributed to the inhalation of tear gas during the May 14 riots.
Ministry spokesperson Dr Ashraf al-Qidra was quoted as saying that an investigation is still underway into the matter. "Leila al-Ghandour is not listed among the martyrs because we are still waiting for the report," he said.
According to Dr. al-Qidra, the infant was dead when she arrived at the hospital and her "family said that she has inhaled tear gas during the protests. It was not clear at the beginning if she died because of this or not. Therefore, we transferred the matter for an investigation."
The doctor also said that during the weekly riots that have taken place on along the Gaza border as part of the "March of Return" protests, a total of 112 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF.
Israel says that the use of force is necessary to prevent multiple attempts by Palestinians, often armed, to breach the border. "This is a very sensitive issue," Dr. al-Qidra added.
"The occupation forces want to prove that she wasn’t killed by the firing of tear gas. I am not saying she was, but an investigation in needed."
IDF Head of the International and Social Media Branch Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said that the IDF has evidence that cast doubt on the veracity of the claim that the baby died of tear gas inhalation.
"It is based on intelligence and on various reports, she suffered from other things, she did not die from inhaling gas," he said.
Leila's family blamed the Israeli army for her death, but the New York Times quoted family members who said she suffered from a congenital heart disease.
A copy of a preliminary patient report obtained by the Guardian from the hospital Leila was admitted to lent credence to this, indicating she suffered from "heart defects since birth" that caused a "severe stop in blood circulation and respiration."
It was not claimed that inhalation of tear gas contributed to her death.
Israel has so far rejected the calls for an independent investigation into the violent incidents that led to the deaths of Palestinians at the events along the Gaza border, and stressed that the use of live ammunition was legal and justified.