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IDF Investigation: Land Mine Killed Family on Gaza Beach

The controversy surrounding the deaths of Palestinians on a Gaza beach Friday – including much immediate international condemnation of Israel – may be about to take another turn, as the IDF is expected this evening to deliver a formal report of their investigations findings. While some of the particulars remain in question, the report will provide some damning details indicating that the blast, according to the report, was most likely a Palestinian land mine recently planted to prevent IDF special forces landings.

Perhaps the best report on the IDF investigation is from Haaretz, which adequately summarizes the situation. Haaretz also carefully notes that it is an IDF investigation into the IDF, not an international or civilian investigation. That said, the information contained in the report, as informally provided to media, are rather compelling and deserve closer review.

The first inconsistency was in the timing of the shelling of the area and the actual blast that killed the family. Palestinian authorities reported the blast to have occurred at 16:40. But the IDF disputes that, saying that no blast had occurred on the beach before 16:58, and that they had stopped shelling the area at 16:51. It is at 16:58 that the IDF says the beach blast killing the family occurred.

The IDF has accounted for five of the six artillery shells fired into the area that afternoon. The one whose impact cannot be accounted for is actually the first shell. The rest of the shells impacted no closer than 250 meters from the Gaza beach blast in question. That the first shell is the missing shell may coincide with the Palestinian claims of timing, although the IDF says that the beach blast site is nearly 500 meters from its intended target, a Kassam rocket launch point. But again, Palestinian claims conflict with the IDF claims of a 16:58 blast. There is likely no way to determine without doubt the exact time of the blast beyond dispute.

There are, however, three other key details that the IDF probe has apparently reached a conclusion on: The shrapnel, the blast crater and the intelligence.

Regarding the blast itself, three Palestinians were evacuated to Israeli hospitals for emergency care. The shrapnel taken from their bodies is not consistent with artillery shells and has reportedly been determined to have not been made in Israel.

Regarding the crater left by the blast, the IDF claims that the disturbance in the sand is not consistent with artillery, but rather of a sub-surface explosion. Artillery shells are engineered for an above-ground blast for maximum area effect, contrary to the perception most non-military people have of an ‘impact.’ The sand disturbance, the IDF says, is more consistent with that of a mine and not a 155mm artillery shell air-burst.

Thirdly, IDF intelligence claims that, since an Israeli special forces beach landing that took out a Kassam team during their launch preparations, Hamas began mining the beaches to prevent another IDF landing.

The timing of the blast may not be settled, remaining one group’s word against the other. But the shrapnel from a blast other than Israeli artillery, if confirmed, may make the timing a moot point.


Unfortunately, the Israeli conclusions were challenged by Mark Garlasco based on the same lack of evidence that led him to compare Haditha to My Lai.

This is not the first time that the palestinians have blamed Israel for their own tragic goofs, that killed their own people. Israel apologized even though they didn't do it, shouldn't the palestinian leadership do so now that their guilt has been squarely established!!!


While I have little doubt that the Israeli report is accurate, I would not go so far as to say 'squarely established'. You may believe it, I may believe it, but that does not mean that it is necessarily 'squarely established'.

Devil's advocate is all.

Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II to the 1980 Convention as amended on 3 May 1996)

Article I - Scope of application
1. This Protocol relates to the use on land of the mines, booby-traps and other devices, defined herein, including mines laid to interdict beaches, waterway crossings or river crossings, but does not apply to the use of anti-ship mines at sea or in inland waterways.

2. This Protocol shall apply, in addition to situations referred to in Article I of this Convention, to situations referred to in Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. This Protocol shall not apply to situations of internal disturbances and tensions, such as riots, isolated and sporadic acts of violence and other acts of a similar nature, as not being armed conflicts.

3. In case of armed conflicts not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply the prohibitions and restrictions of this Protocol.

4. Nothing in this Protocol shall be invoked for the purpose of affecting the sovereignty of a State or the responsibility of the Government, by all legitimate means, to maintain or re-establish law and order in the
State or to defend the national unity and territorial integrity of the State.

5. Nothing in this Protocol shall be invoked as a justification for intervening, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the armed conflict or in the internal or external affairs of the High Contracting Party in the territory of which that conflict occurs.

6. The application of the provisions of this Protocol to parties to a conflict, which are not High Contracting Parties that have accepted this Protocol, shall not change their legal status or the legal status of a disputed territory, either explicitly or implicitly.