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IDF: Tape shows Palestinians faked funeral

Erakat denies 'such stunts' used to win public opinion

A Palestinian elder surveys the rubble left after Israeli bulldozers toppled part of his home in Jenin.  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israel Defense Forces has released a videotape showing what it calls "a phony funeral that the Palestinians organized in order to multiply the number of casualties in Jenin."

In a statement posted on the IDF Web site, Col. Miri Eizen said the pictures were shot by an aerial drone on April 28, depicting a funeral procession held between a cemetery and an area of the Jenin refugee camp destroyed during the Israeli occupation.

Palestinians have accused Israeli forces of killing hundreds of civilians at the refugee camp in the West Bank. Those claims have not been corroborated.

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The humanitarian watchdog group Human Rights Watch identified 52 Palestinians, including 22 civilians, who were killed during the operation.

Israel lost 23 soldiers in the fighting and said its forces took painstaking efforts to avoid civilian casualties.

The grainy, out-of-focus videotape released by the IDF shows six people putting a green sheet on the ground. In the next scene, someone walks toward the sheet, lying on it before being wrapped inside.

The next scene depicts a disorganized procession of more than a dozen people, some of them carrying the body wrapped in the green sheet, holding it aloft, then dropping it.

The person who was dropped then appears to unwrap the sheet and run away, as do several others who were in the procession.

Eizen called the tape "testimony of the Palestinians' preparations for the U.N. committee's visit to Jenin. In this segment, you see a staged funeral that the Palestinians organized in order to increase the number of the Palestinians killed in Jenin ... It is very clear and easy to see that the body has apparently 'resurrected' and that the whole funeral is actually one big charade."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced earlier this week that he would disband the fact-finding team created last month to probe the Jenin conflict. Israel has questioned the makeup and mandate of such a mission. The U.N. Security Council is still deadlocked on the issue of Jenin.

Israel claims the funeral procession depicted on the IDF videotape aimed to dishonestly sway global public opinion by making it appear as if greater numbers of Palestinians died in the Jenin violence than, in fact, did.

"It is clear that the Palestinians are faking a funeral to increase the numbers of their killed," Eizen said. "They tried to falsify evidence in preparation for the committee by executing a fake ceremony, carrying the 'body' and filming the entire process.

"The funeral took place between the area that was destroyed in Jenin and the cemetery and people indeed joined the funeral, but when the person fell from the stretcher the participants were frightened, thinking the body had returned to life."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he had not seen the videotape, but that it underscores the need for an independent fact-finding commission -- such as the team proposed by the United Nations.

"The Israelis cannot continue refusing the international commission and then accuse the Palestinians of staging such stunts," Erakat said. "We have real children, real women, real men who have died. Many of them are maybe still under the rubble. These are facts. And the fact that they refused the international commission provides a big question: what do the Israelis have to hide? This cannot be acceptable."




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