The latest development in the Gaza beachfront massacre is that the IDF has examined shrapnel removed from the bodies of wounded victims treated at Israeli hospitals. It finds the metal not consistent with what is used in Israeli artillery shells. If this is true, it would bolster the IDF’s contention that it is not at fault for the tragedy.
Who would be culpable in the IDF’s view? Hamas of course:
[A] committee, headed by Major General Meir Kalifi, is due to present its findings to the defense minister and the chief of staff Tuesday night. Its tentative conclusion is that the deaths stemmed from a bomb that Hamas planted on the beach in order to ambush Israeli naval commandos operating in northern Gaza…
Israel has amassed considerable information indicating that over the past few weeks, ever since Israeli commandos infiltrated Gaza and killed a rocket-launching cell, Hamas has been systematically mining the northern Gaza beach in an attempt to keep Israeli commandos from landing there again.
I am always leery of Israeli media reports from unsubstantiated sources who cite unsubstantiated claims. And this passage is no exception: “Israel has amassed considerable information” blaming Palestinian militants. What is the nature of the information? I doubt you’ll find out from the IDF which is under no compulsion to share such information with the public in the Israeli carte blanche security system.
Haaretz’s article on the military report notes a certain lack of credibility in the investigatory process:
The importance of the committee’s findings are obviously mitigated by the fact that ultimately, the IDF is being cleared by an IDF investigation. This is not an international inquiry, or even an external, civilian inquiry. Nevertheless, the army hopes that the findings will clear its name. Thus the next step will be leveraging these findings to affect public opinion: Israeli (where the battle is already largely won…), international and even Palestinian.
One wonders why the IDF would not turn to an external inquiry by a panel of experts who could validate its theory of the event. This might go a long way to persuade the world that the army’s theory is indeed true. But don’t hold your breath. Israel doesn’t put much stock in such inquiries and never feels it needs to persuade the world of anything. The IDF follows the “take it or leave it” school of public relations.
And even if the IDF claim turns out to be true, Israel still has a very big PR problem on its hands because the Palestinians and the world may never believe it:
In the past, Israel has occasionally succeeded in refuting responsibility for casualties. A good example is the now discredited claim that Israel massacred Palestinians in Jenin in April 2002. This time, however, the game may already be lost.
In other words, if you engage is a seemingly unending series of brutal acts against a people and it then turns out that one of the so-called brutal acts was not actually your fault, you don’t necessarily get any credit for it based on your previous heinous record. That may be the case for the IDF here.
There is yet another problematic issue for the IDF which it has not resolved. Six shells were fired at Qassam rocket launching sites that day. Only five are accounted for. What happened to the sixth shell?
The main hole in the army’s evidence is the missing sixth shell–actually, the first to be fired, whose landing site has not been determined. From an examination of the cannon, the army is convinced that the shell could not have fallen on the beach, almost half a kilometer from its intended target. But there is no firm proof of this, only an educated guess.
If it turns out that Hamas or another militant group did mine the beach then they are certainly criminally negligent. But it makes absolutely no sense to me that you would mine a beach where innocent civilians frolic every day. You’d be deliberately courting the death of innocents (as the IDF too has done by shelling densely populated urban areas). I’m certainly not saying Palestinian militants wouldn’t be callous enough to do this. Just that it’s hard to believe they would. And if they did and those militants were from Hamas, then Mahmoud Abbas may be bolstered in his struggle against Hamas leading to the upcoming national referendum. Let us hope that something good might come of this horrible tragedy.