Is the IDF lying when it claims there is no way its artillery could’ve lobbed a shell on a Gaza beach killing eight civilians frolicking in the sand? Human Rights Watch sure thinks something doesn’t smell right about the IDF’s exoneration of itself (this from the NY Times):
Human Rights Watch, which has been investigating the Israeli shelling in Gaza on Friday, said of the deaths, “The evidence we have gathered strongly suggests Israeli artillery fire was to blame.” It called on Israel to open an independent investigation rather than relying on its own military.
An American expert working with Human Rights Watch, Marc Garlasco, is a former Pentagon official who did bomb damage assessment for the American military in Kosovo and worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
He said that he had visited the beach the day after the explosion, and that the crater size, the shrapnel and the location of injuries on the bodies all pointed to “a shell dropping from the sky, not explosives under the sand.”
In an interview in Gaza, he said he had found shrapnel “consistent with a 155-mm. Israeli shell fired from a M109 howitzer,” including one piece stamped “155mm.
Further, the Human Rights Watch investigation at the beach determined that several shells landed there, not one:
Eyewitnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described between five and six explosions on the beach between 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., the time frame when the IDF fired artillery onto the beach and when the seven civilians were killed…
According to readings from a Global Positioning Satellite taken by Human Rights Watch, the crater where the victims were killed was within the vicinity of the other artillery craters created by the IDF’s June 9 artillery attack and was the same shape and size. One crater was 100 meters away from the fatal crater, and the rest were 250 to 300 meters away.
If accurate, this blows the IDF account to smithereens. According to it six shells were fired and landed 250 meters from the beach. They cannot account for one of the shells but claim there is no way it could’ve landed on the beach. The fact that possibly five or six IDF shells landed on the beach makes the IDF story look like a crock.
As for the IDF claim that Hamas militants mined the beach thus explaining how the deaths occurred: Human Rights Watch shoots down this theory as well by stating that the worst wounds were to the head and torso of the victims indicating the shell struck from above rather than below:
According to on-site investigations by Human Rights Watch, the size of the craters and the type of injuries to the victims are not consistent with the theory that a mine caused the explosion. The craters are too large to be made by bounding mines, the only type of landmines capable of producing head and torso injuries of the type suffered by the victims on June 9. Additionally, Palestinian armed groups are not known to have, or to have used, bounding mines; the Palestinian government bomb squad said it has never uncovered a bounding mine in any explosive incident.
Until now, I haven’t known who to blame for this incident (and we still don’t know the precise answer), but both the quality of Garlasco’s military expertise and the specificity of the evidence he witnessed at the beach convince me that the IDF is at best not telling the whole truth and at worst lying through its teeth.
Neither Amir Peretz nor Dan Halutz have been willing to admit the obvious–that only an independent, credible investigation can ascertain the truth. Barring that, IDF protestations of innocence will sound self-serving and bogus to everyone but the IDF itself. Does this statement from Halutz sound convincing or credible?
“What we are doing is very, very, very professional,” he told reporters. “We don’t need the assistance of anyone.”