VIDEO - The IDF is continuing its investigation into the Gaza beach incident, during which seven members of a Palestinian family were killed.
Southern Command Chief Yoav Galant told Ynet the incident’s circumstances should be clarified in the coming days, adding that the army is well-aware of the location of sensitive and highly-populated areas in Gaza and is making every effort to avoid them during attacks on the Strip.
IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has ordered the halting of artillery fire on Gaza until the investigation is concluded.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz expressed his deep regret over the death of innocent Palestinian civilians in the Gaza beach attack, saying it is being probed thoroughly.
The defense minister said the reluctance of terror cells to continue firing Qassam rockets into Israel led to the latest escalation, but expressed his deepest regrets for the incident.
"Qassam cells are the main reason for the escalation and the firing of artillery cells into Gaza. Israel has no intention of fighting the Palestinian people but of fighting terror and it will continue to do just that," Peretz said.
A Navy investigation into the incident found that Israeli vessels did not open fire on the Gaza beach area, and a similar Air Force investigation came to the same conclusions, thus strengthening the assumption that it was IDF artillery batteries positioned near Gaza that were behind the deadly attack.
'We will know how to hurt those who hurt us'
Galant added that the incident took place in close proximity to the area in which the former Dugit settlement was located - an area used by terror cells to fire Qassam rockets at Israel.
“We did not open fire toward the (Gaza beach) area, so it may have been a stray artillery shell,” he said. “We must also look into the possibility that the blast was caused by Palestinians who set off a bomb or dud.”
The Southern Command chief said the IDF has been carrying out continuous attacks, not always successfully, on Qassam terror cells belonging to Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees.
“We will continue to do all that is necessary to protect the citizens of Israel. I advise the terror cells not to attack again, because we will have to respond,” he said, adding that “the terrorists are training constantly and have even increased their preparation for carrying out attacks on Israel.”
A short while after the Gaza beach incident the IDF attacked Hamas Qassam-launching cells, for the first time since last summer’s disengagement.
“These terrorists belong to a certain group within Hamas,” Galant said. “We will know how to hurt those who hurt us.”
After a ceasefire that lasted 16 months, Hamas' armed wing vowed on Friday to renew attacks against Israel due to the Gaza beach attack.
"The Israeli massacres represent a direct opening battle and that means the earthquake in the Zionist cities will resume and the herds of occupiers have no choice but to prepare the coffins or the departing luggage," the group said in a statement.