Only a few hours after the tragic explosion Wednesday morning in Beit Hanoun that left 18 Palestinians dead, IDF Chief of Staff General Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz ordered Deputy Ground Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Meir Kalifi to head a team of experts and investigate the affair.
The IDF is striving to complete the preliminary investigation by Wednesday evening and present it to Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Gen. Kalifi headed the investigation of the Gaza beach explosion, in which the Ghalia family was killed.
The Gaza beach investigation revealed that the family had not been killed as the result of IDF artillery fire but rather from a Palestinian land mine or an old, unexploded IDF shell.
Nonetheless, Wednesday morning's events had a direct impact on the IDF's decision to reduce significantly the use of artillery fire in Gaza.
The main problem facing the current investigative team is whether its members will be able to investigate the scene of the incident and get the full picture of what really happened at 6 in the morning.
"In the past, Palestinians made it very difficult for IDF investigators. They delayed the transfer of important data and were occasionally suspected of transferring tainting evidence," one military source told Ynet.
The IDF investigation will include a thorough investigation of the artillery battalion in the area, stationed near the town of Bari, and the military commands handed down to it from the IDF's Gaza Division.
It has already been determined that the target of the IDF artillery fire was a Qassam launch site and thus, the artillery battery will be examined. Additionally, intelligence sources will also investigate the possibility that the explosion was not caused by IDF artillery.
Only 2 shells unaccounted forAccording to Palestinian reports, six adjacent structures were damaged by the explosion and their residents were the subsequent casualties of the event.
"At this time, we know that ten of twelve shells that were fired at the target (the Qassam launch site) hit their mark. Even if the remaining two targets deviated from their mark, it's unclear how they would have managed to hit six buildings. It's not logical," said the military source.
Despite the fatal repercussions of the explosion, military sources are reasonably certain that it be possible to arrive at clear conclusions within a short amount of time if they are allowed to investigate the scene of the incident.
Immediately after the explosion in Beit Hanoun, the coordinator of government activities in the territories offered medical aid to the Palestinians, including evacuation of the injured to Israeli hospitals. At this time, the Palestinians have not asked for any aid.
In the past, Kliffi noted, when treating a number of Ghalia family members who had been transferred to Israel, doctors noted a suspicious removal of shrapnel prior to hospitalization.