Two days have passed since the tough incident on Beit Lahiya’s beachfront, in which seven members of a Palestinian family were killed in an explosion blamed on Israel. Tragic pictures of a seven-year-old girl, orphaned by the blast, running around her bloodied, dying father were broadcast around the world, and sharp criticism was hurled at Israel from all directions.
But by Sunday, accumulating proof is suggesting – at least to the Israeli side – that the blast may not have been caused by an IDF shell.
IDF shell fire
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that the security established had completely excluded the possibility that the explosion was caused by an IDF air force or naval strike already during initial investigations. However, the possibility Israeli artillery fire caused the blast was still being examined.
“Out of six shells that were fired, the landing spot of one of them is unknown,” Peretz said. However, he added, there are great disparities between the time at which the army recording firing shells and the time the beachfront explosion occurred, according to Palestinian reports.
Children protest in Khan Younis (Photo: Reuters)
IDF investigations found that the shell that hit closest to the blast site landed a full 200 to 250 meters away, and therefore could not have caused the deadly explosion.
Peretz also mentioned the possibility that the blast was an “intra-Palestinian incident.” The Southern Command was seriously examining the possibility that a mine planted on the beach by Palestinians exploded. Various organization in Gaza have laid mines around the separation fence to prevent IDF ground incursions, and it is possible they have also begun planting mines on the coast to thwart IDF naval commando raids.
It should be noted that immediately after the tragic explosion, Palestinian gunmen, among them Hamas members, arrived on the scene even before Palestinian security forces. The IDF said the operatives were seen combing the area, as if looking for evidence. This may strengthen the theory that organization member planted mines or explosives at the site.
The IDF noted the poor cooperation from the Palestinian side in investigating the occurrence, which raises questions on whether they are withholding information.
Another possibility of an “intra-Palestinian incident” is what is generally defined as a work accident, i.e., an explosive prepared for use against Israel detonated prematurely. This option, however, does not seem likely because the blast occurred on the beach.
The security establishment is having difficulties getting to the bottom of the incident, as the Palestinian family members wounded in the blast and hospitalized in Israel arrived only after receiving initial treatment on the Palestinian side. Doctors at Ichilov Hospital and Soroka Medical Center were surprised to find the wounded “cleansed” of any shrapnel, which complicates investigations.
However, sources at the Gaza hospital told Ynet that the shrapnel was from “standard” shells, in other words the ones used by the IDF. “We know this shrapnel well, and are willing to testify in front of any investigative committee or court of law,” said a senior staff-member of one of the local hospitals.
Israel continues to probe the incident, but the military and PR establishments already know well that the terrible images – even if it ends up the IDF is not responsible – already made their impression on the world.
Ali Waked contributed to the report