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.