Annan, US expert doubt Gaza beach blast findings
Former Pentagon analyst, now senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, says evidence gathered in Gaza points to Israeli shell as cause of blast that left seven Palestinians dead; Annan: I don't believe it is plausible that Palestinians planted charges in a place where civilians often spend their time
While the IDF committee investigating the explosion that left seven members of a Palestinian family dead on a Beit Layiha beach in northern Gaza determined that the chances the blast was caused by an IDF artillery shell are slim, there are those who doubt the army’s version of the events.
Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon analyst who's now a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said all the evidence he had gathered in Gaza pointed to an Israeli shell as the cause of the explosion.
“Based on what I have seen, I'd be shocked if it was anything other than that," Garlasco said.
He said it was impossible to rule out the possibility that terrorists had rigged an Israeli shell into a makeshift bomb, but that the shrapnel injuries - all to the upper body - suggested that the chance of that was remote and that a 155 millimeter shell caused the explosion.
'Israel not involved'
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also doubted the IDF committee’s conclusions.
"The Israeli claim that the beach blast was caused by an explosive charge at the site sounds strange to me. I don't believe it is plausible that the Palestinians planted charges in a place where civilians often spend their time," Annan told the London-based Al-Hayat daily.
Annan expressed his sorrow over Tuesday’s IAF attack in Gaza that claimed the lives of 11 Palestinians, but stopped short of suggesting the establishment of a UN investigative committee to probe the incident as it would require the cooperation of both sides, which does not seem likely at this stage.
An attempt to set up a similar committee following an IDF operation in Jenin failed.
Annan asked Israel to "respect international law and human life", and called on the army to operate at a distance from civilians. He also condemned the Qassam rocket attacks at Israeli western Negev communities.
The IDF claims the blast was that of a bomb or mine placed by Palestinians on the beach – apparently as part of an effort to prevent ground forces from storing the beach.
In a press conference held Tuesday evening, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz declared that according to findings they obtained, the Palestinian family killed on the Gaza beach on Friday was not hurt by an Israeli shell.