World, Middle East

Netanyahu’s office shares pictures of bodies of infants to back Israeli claims

Israeli army refuses to launch investigation, government says it cannot confirm reports of 40 toddlers being decapitated

Mehmet Solmaz  | 12.10.2023 - Update : 12.10.2023
Netanyahu’s office shares pictures of bodies of infants to back Israeli claims


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Thursday shared pictures of infants claimed to be killed after Hamas infiltration into southern Israel on Saturday.

The photos came three days after an Israeli news channel reporter "heard from a soldier" that "40 babies' heads were cut off.”

In one of the photos, an infant can be seen with blood around the body and in the remaining two pictures, a burnt toddler is seen in a body bag.

The Israeli army told Business Insider on Wednesday that it would not investigate the decapitated babies claim, because it is “disrespectful to the dead.”

As Netanyahu’s office posted on X, Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post said it confirms the reports of babies being burnt and decapitated are correct. The paper claimed the photos were shown to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit to Israel by the Public Diplomacy Directorate in the Prime Minister's Office.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli government told the CNN that it could not confirm “babies were beheaded,” a claim that was first surfaced via a journalist for the i24, an Israeli news channel.

The statement came hours after US President Joe Biden said: “I never thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.”

The White House was quick to “clarify” Biden’s words, saying the president has not seen pictures or confirmed such reports. His comments were based on “media reports.”

Hamas has condemned “promoting the Israeli occupation’s propaganda, which is full of lies and fabrications, as an attempt to cover up the crimes, massacres committed by the Israeli occupation around the clock, most of which amount to war crimes and genocide.”

A spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister appeared on CNN on Wednesday and said “babies and toddlers were found with their heads decapitated.” Once shown as a source for the claim on X by a user, she responded by saying: “Please note: We said that these reports are based on testimonies of soldiers.”

To this day, only one soldier has said he saw babies were beheaded. David Ben Zion of Unit 71, an extremist settler who earlier this year called for “wiping out entire Palestinian villages,” said “they chopped heads of children and women” during an interview with i24 on Tuesday.

Rest of the claims were made quoting “soldiers” and it is unknown if their source was Ben Zion.

When the allegation was first made by i24, Anadolu contacted the Israeli army, which said it had no information to confirm the claims.

Sam Forey of Le Monde, one of several reporters who were taken to the village of Kafr Aza, which was attacked by Hamas, said “no one told me anything about beheaded children, let alone 40 beheaded children.”

The French journalist said he checked with two emergency services, who were tasked with collecting corpses, and both said “they have not witnessed such a thing.”

Oren Ziv, a reporter from 972Mag, who also visited the scene, said: “During the tour, we didn’t see any evidence of this.”

Another profile which appeared on media with verifying the claim was Jonathan Conricus, a former IDF spokesperson who now appears on i24 to comment on defense matters and a regular guest for pro-Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Conricus spoke to the BBC on Thursday, saying he confirms beheaded babies, citing a “coroner” who visited the scene.

Israeli officials are yet to bring the “40 babies beheaded” claim to light with forensic reports as the IDF refuses to launch an investigation.

- i24 enjoys close ties with Netanyahu, military

Israeli newspaper Haaretz earlier reported that Netanyahu, who was indicted on several corruption charges, has leveraged the issuance of a broadcasting license to i24 in exchange for favorable coverage.

The channel — which broadcasts in English, Spanish, French, and Arabic — is known for making unfounded claims on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

British-Iraqi activist Kareem Dennis of MintPress News, an independent US-based watchdog journalism organization, claimed that i24 "has employed at least 35 veterans of the Israeli occupation forces as staff."

He listed various names and their ties to the Israeli military.

"Channa Rifkin is an i24News correspondent who transitioned from the channel's Social Media editor to the Israeli military, then returned to work for i24News."

"David Matlin, the host of a daily flagship show on i24News, is a former Israeli military sergeant and the regional director for Israel lobby group AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)." Matlin is also a founding member of the channel.

"Eyal Pinko, who was the head of intelligence in the Israeli Navy before becoming the head of division in the Israeli prime minister's office, is another correspondent for the channel," Dennis said in the X thread.

He also mentioned Daniel Tsemach, a former i24 journalist who joined the channel after serving as a social media manager for the Israeli military. Tsemach recently left his position at i24 to join Israel's state-owned defense company Rafael.

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