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A new report by Le Monde debunks a baseless Israeli claim. (Photo: cover)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“There were never 40 decapitated babies. Not in Kfar Aza nor in any other kibbutz,” Le Monde quoted the Israeli government press office as saying.

Following the military operation carried out by the Palestinian Resistance movement Hamas in October 2023, rumors circulated about 40 decapitated babies found in the Kfar Aza settlement. Despite the Israeli government confirming this as false, the rumor persisted and was exploited by Israel, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on Thursday.

The disturbing yet baseless claim surfaced in the aftermath of October 7 and continues to circulate, amplifying allegations of Israeli disinformation. 

The claim revolved around the alleged discovery of 40 decapitated babies in the Kfar Aza kibbutz. Despite Israeli government confirmation that no such incident occurred, the rumor gained unprecedented traction, even reaching the White House. 

“There were never 40 decapitated babies. Not in Kfar Aza nor in any other kibbutz,” Le Monde quoted the Israeli government press office as confirming.

“There were never 40 decapitated babies. Not in Kfar Aza nor in any other kibbutz,” Le Monde quoted the Israeli government press office as confirming.

According to the investigation, however, “Israel has done nothing to fight it and has more often tried to instrumentalize it than deny it, fueling accusations of media manipulation.”

ZAKA, again

On October 10, three days after the operation, the Israeli army hosted numerous foreign journalists, including Le Monde, in Kfar Aza.

Richard Hecht, Israel’s top army spokesman and co-organizer of the visit, reportedly aimed to showcase the unprecedented nature of the attack to the international press. 

“Because of the risk of explosive booby traps, journalists could only enter a few houses. The only Israeli corpses they saw were in body bags, all adult-sized,” Le Monde reported.

Though the general staff made no mention of dead babies on the ground, journalists had the opportunity to question Israeli soldiers and first-aid workers, “whose accounts were murkier and disturbing”, according to the report.

Among the responders on-site were members of ZAKA, an ultra-Orthodox NGO tasked with body recovery. 

“Lacking medical training, some (ZAKA volunteers) misunderstood the identity or age of the victims,” according to Le Monde. 

ZAKA, which was also present at the kibbutz Be’eri, played a pivotal role in spreading misinformation in the aftermath of the event, according to numerous Israeli media reports. The NGO, facing financial difficulties, seemed to exploit the tragedy to solicit donations, as reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz last February.

Journalists also interviewed military personnel, including reserve soldiers, whose accounts were at times unreliable or inconsistent. Some claimed to have witnessed distressing scenes, such as children hanging from clotheslines, which were later found to be unfounded rumors. 

Weapon in Information War 

According to Le Monde, the dissemination of misinformation extended beyond the ground in Kfar Aza. 

i24News, known for its proximity to the Israeli government, broadcasted reports mentioning beheaded babies, which were later retracted without much explanation. 

During a live broadcast amidst a visit to the kibbutz, Israeli journalist Nicole Zedeck from the English-language edition made the initial public mention of beheaded babies, which was then echoed by her colleague from the French-language edition, Mael Benoliel, and CNN’s Nic Robertson.

While Robertson and Benoliel did not respond to Le Monde’s requests for comments, Zedeck reportedly said: “There was fatigue, stress, shock, fear a little, too. I wasn’t well, I didn’t have enough perspective on what I was seeing and experiencing.”

For several weeks, however, i24News persisted in its narrative. The channel even decried what it perceived as attacks from “prominent anti-Israeli voices,” accusing them of attempting to undermine their journalist’s credibility, according to the report. 

“It wasn’t until November 30 that a correction was slipped into an article,” Le Monde said.

According to Le Monde, the Israeli government’s response to the rumor was contradictory, occasionally endorsing it through unofficial channels, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared photos of burned infants before deleting them.

“The rumor of the 40 babies became a part of the information war” Le Monde reported.

According to the paper, although “denied internationally, the rumor remains alive and well within Israel.”

Gaza Genocide

Currently on trial before the International Court of Justice for genocide against Palestinians, Israel has been waging a devastating war on Gaza.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 33,037 Palestinians have been killed, and 75,668 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Moreover, at least 7,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip. 

Palestinian and international organizations say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all over the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.

Israel says that 1,200 soldiers and civilians were killed during the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on October 7. Israeli media published reports suggesting that many Israelis were killed on that day by ‘friendly fire.’

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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