Hamas leader paid Gazan family to lie about baby's death, indictment says
Indictment filed against a member of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades says Mahmoud Omar, who was arrested during a border riot, told his investigators that Yahya Sinwar had paid his niece's parents NIS 8,000 to tell media that eight-month-old Leila al-Ghandour had died from tear gas inhalation rather than from a pre-existing medical condition.
The indictment was filed by the Southern District Attorney's Office against 20-year-old Gaza resident Mahmoud Omar, who was arrested during the "March of Return" riots last month.
According to one of the charges, the Hamas leader in Gaza paid Omar's family to say that his eight-month-old niece, Leila al-Ghandour, had died from tear gas inhalation rather than from a blood disease.
Ghandour's death sparked global criticism, but the Hamas Health Ministry in Gaza later crossed the baby's name off the official list of people killed during deadly border riots, pending further investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death.
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.
According to the indictment, Omar arrived at the border fence with other al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades last month and tried to vandalize one of the border crossing's gates. At some point, he received a phone call from his mother, informing him that his niece had died.
When Omar got home, the indictment says, he found out that the baby had died from a blood disease, which was likely similar to a disease that caused the death of her brother, Salim al-Ghandour, who had died in 2017 when he was only a few months old. He then discovered that the baby's parents had told the media that Leila had died after inhaling tear gas fired by the IDF during the border protests.
Omar told his investigators that Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza, had paid the family NIS 8,000 (about $2,200) to lie and say that Leila had died of tear gas inhalation.
Omar was charged with membership in a terror organization, military training and using a weapon for terror-related purposes. He joined Fatah's military wing after his family was promised financial aid. In late May, he arrived at the border fence again with other group members to torch an unmanned IDF guard post.
They planned to flash the V sign with their hands and film the incident. The defendant's job was to serve as a lookout, while the other two operatives carried scissors to cut the barbed wire, a bottle of gasoline and a video camera. When they arrived at the border, they were spotted by IDF soldiers who opened fire at them. The defendant and one of the other operatives were apprehended by the IDF.