Gaza beach blast (2006)

Gaza beach blast (2006)

The Gaza beach blast [Originally the event was known as the "Gaza beach massacre", but this title was subsequently overtaken by the current name.] was an event on June 9, 2006 in which eight Palestinians were killed and at least thirty others injured in an explosion on a beach near the municipality of Beit Lahia in the Gaza Strip. [ [ "Hamas militants vow to end truce"] , "BBC Online", 10 June, 2006] The aftermath of the incident was captured on video and showed a distressed eleven year old girl, Huda Ghaliya, mourning the loss of family members, most of whom were killed in the incident. The footage of Ghaliya's grief, which received considerable media attention, was broadcast on news networks around the world, making her a "symbol of Palestinian suffering". [ 'Different views of Gaza deaths'] , BBC, June 19, 2006]

Initial reports, relying on Palestinian eyewitnesses, blamed the blast on Israeli shelling. [ [ 'Palestinians killed on Gaza beach'] , BBC Online, June 9, 2006
- "Seven people, including three children, have been killed by Israeli shells which hit a beach in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials say."
] [ [ 'Eyewitness: Gaza beach shelling'] , BBC Online, June 9, 2006
- "Gaza journalist Sami Yousef was at the beach in the north of the territory on Friday, when a series of artillery shells hit the sands, killing seven people and injuring dozens."
] However, the Israeli army and Israeli officials denied these allegations, suggesting instead that explosives may have been placed on the beach. [ "Israel set to deny role in Gaza beach killings"] , "Reuters", 13 June, 2006 ( [ mirror] )] A subsequent investigation by the Israeli Defence Forces concluded that Israel did not shell the beach, but that the explosion may have been the result of unexploded Israeli ordnance. Human Rights Watch and The Guardian both criticised the investigation which the IDF, while maintaining it was not responsible for the blast, later admitted was flawed.


Seven members of the Ghaliya family — Ali, 43; Raisa, 36; Alia, 24; Ilham, 17; Sabrin, 7; Hanadi, 2; and Haytham, 8 months — were killed by the blast. Along with 7-year old Huda, survivors included her mother, Hamdia, and an elder sister. [ [ "Palestinian girl keeps a painful secret"] by NBC News correspondent Martin Fletcher, June 19, 2006] Adham Ghaliya was injured by shrapnel and had to seek medical attention in the United States. One other Palestinian civilian was also killed. [ [ Al Jazeera English - News - Caught On The Wrong Side ] ]


It was initially reported that the blast was caused by an Israeli artillery shell [ "Palestinians killed on Gaza beach"] , BBC, June 9 2006] [ "Eyewitness: Gaza Beach Shelling"] , BBC, 9 June, 2006] and the Israeli army claimed it was targeting Qassam rocket launchers, shelling the beach 250 metres away from the blast, ten minutes prior to it. An Israeli military investigation later concluded that the family was not hurt as a result of Israeli shelling. [cite news | title=IDF: No details deleted from Gaza blast probe | publisher=Ha'aretz | url= | accessdate=2006-06-18]

Human Rights Watch has expressed doubts regarding the IDF investigation, saying that it was incomplete and called for an independent inquiry into the deaths. [ "Israel: Gaza Beach Investigation Ignores Evidence"] ] On June 16 it was reported that Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst and battle damage assessment expert at Human Rights Watch [ [ "Bio of Human Rights Watch's Mark Garlasco"] , Mother Jones Radio, October 2, 2005] , had examined a piece of shrapnel said to have come from the abdomen of a Palestinian boy and had concluded that the shrapnel was part of an artillery fuse. [ "Shrapnel clue to Gaza beach shelling"] ]

Israel Defense Forces

An IDF investigation into the deaths concluded, on 13 June, 2006, that one piece of shrapnel removed from the body of Amneh Ghaliya did not match the metal signature of Israeli munitions, and that IDF shells or missiles would have left larger craters than found on the site of the incident. [ [ "Peretz: Friday's Gaza beach shelling 'not our doing' "] , Jerusalem Post, June 13, 2006] The report suggested the blast was probably caused by an explosive device buried in the sand, but did not determine whether it was planted by Palestinians (as the IDF committee head speculated but could not confirm) or was an old IDF explosive. [ "IDF probe: Gaza beach blast not caused by wayward army shell"] , Ha'aretz, June 13, 2006]

The IDF explained that six cannon shells were fired in the vicinity. The landing spots of last five were identified as being 250 meters away from the incident, but that of the first was not determined. The army is nevertheless convinced that the first shell, which they say was shot at least eight minutes prior to the fatal blast, could not have fallen on the beach almost half a kilometer away from its intended target. [] Major General Dan Halutz, IDF Chief of Staff and former Israeli Air Force Commander was reported as saying "We can say, surely, that the IDF is not responsible for the incident," and that, "We checked each and every shell that was fired from the sea, the air and from the artillery on the land and we found out that we can track every one according to a timetable and according to the accuracy of where they hit the ground."

On 17 June, the "The Times" (of London) reported that the Israeli Army had told them its report was flawed, in that it failed to mention two gunboat shells fired at 4.24pm and 4.55pm. According to the IDF the two shells landed too far away to have been responsible. A UN radio transmission describing "casualties" in the area at 4.33pm was identified by the head of the IDF inquiry commission Major General Meir Klifi as related to "an earlier incident" near the abandoned settlement of Dugit.Stephen Farrell, [,,251-2230076,00.html "Israel admits shell report flaws"] , "Times Online", 17 June, 2006]

Palestinian bomb squad

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Interior Ministry described the Israeli report as "a lie and an attempt to escape moral responsibility for the massacre of a completely innocent family." Colonel Saleh Abu Alozom of the Palestinian bomb squad claims to have recovered from the beach multiple fragments from the copper shell casing of an IDF 155mm artillery shell of the type fired towards the area on the day in question.Martin Chulov, [,20867,19484564-2703,00.html "Shrapnel "proves shell was Israeli"] , "The Australian", 16 June, 2006]

hrapnel removal

The victims had initially been treated by Palestinian doctors who removed almost all shrapnel from the bodies of victims before they arrived at Israeli hospitals for treatment. [ [,7340,L-3261513,00.html "Gaza beach blast: Possible scenarios"] , 11 June, 2006] Representatives of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center said that Palestinian doctors at Shifa hospital in Gaza, who had treated a woman wounded during the blast, had made unnecessary cuts all over her body in an effort to remove all the surgically reachable shrapnel. The Israeli hospital said they had never before received a patient from which all possible shrapnel had been removed." [cite news | first=Judy | last=Siegel-Itzkovich | title=PA doctors cut victim needlessly | date=June 21, 2006 | accessdate=2006-06-21 | url=]

Human Rights Watch

Mark Garlasco, [ [ "Bio of Human Rights Watch's Mark Garlasco"] , Mother Jones Radio, October 2, 2005] the senior military analyst and battle damage assessment expert at Human Rights Watch, initially said that the nature of the injuries was "not consistent" with the Israeli explanation of an explosion originating from a buried object, [ "Israel: Investigate Gaza Beach Killings"] , Human Rights Watch, 13 June 2006] and claimed in his report to have found shrapnel 10–12cm in diameter scattered in an area of 90 meters around the explosion sites, some stamped with the number "55" and the word "mm". [ "Israeli Channel 10: Shrapnel of Israeli Shell in Body of Injured in "Gaza Beach Massacre"] , International Press Centre, 20 June, 2006] On 16 June it was reported that he had examined a piece of shrapnel from the abdomen of a Palestinian boy and had concluded that the shrapnel was part of an artillery fuse. [ "Shrapnel clue to Gaza beach shelling"] ] Following a meeting with Major General Klifi on 19 June 2006 however, Garlasco praised the IDF's efforts to avoid civilian casualties and their professional investigation of the blast, saying he had " [come] to an agreement with General Klifi that the most likely cause [of the blast] was unexploded Israeli ordnance". [ "Gaza beach blast victim wakes"] , "Jerusalem Post", June 20, 2006] HRW itself however, while conceding that it was "possible" for unexploded ordnance to have caused the deaths, cited a digitally dated and time-stamped blood test and hand-written records from the Gazan hospital that provided treatment [ [ "Israel: More Evidence on Beach Killings Implicates IDF"] , "Human Rights News", 15 June, 2006] to persist in its claim that the explosion actually took place at the time of the IDF artillery fire, and continued to call for an independent investigation. [ [ "HRW: We can't contradict IDF findings"] "Jerusalem Post", 19 June, 2006 ]

In apparent contradiction to the earlier praise of the IDF investigation, in a later press release issued by Human Rights Watch Garlasco declared the IDF investigation not credible, citing the IDF's refusal to consider Palestinian and HRW provided evidence. Garlasco said “If the Israeli allegations of tampered evidence are to be believed, many Palestinians would have to have engaged in a massive and immediate conspiracy to falsify the data.” The press release states that it is possible for the cause of deaths to have been unexploded ordnance, but maintained that Klifi's investigation was incomplete. [cite web| publisher=Human Rights Watch | url= | title=Israel: Gaza Beach Investigation Ignores Evidence | date=June 20, 2006 | accessdate=2006-06-20]

Media reports

Guardian report

On 17 June The Guardian published the findings of their own investigation into the incident, casting doubt on Israeli claim that army was not to blame. [,,1799825,00.html "The battle of Huda Ghalia - who really killed girl's family on Gaza beach?"] ] The report included interviews with some of the people that were on the beach that day and concluded with the following statements from Human Rights Watch's Mark Garlasco: "The likelihood that the Ghalia family was killed by an explosive other than one of the shells fired by the Israeli army is remote," and the Israel Defense Forces' Capt Dalal: "We're not trying to cover up anything. We didn't do the investigation to exonerate ourselves. If it was our fire, we'll say it."

üddeutsche Zeitung report

On 16 June German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has reported that the Israeli Army had assured that fragmentation found in one of the treated patients cannot match any weapon used by the Israeli army. [ [ "Der Krieg der Bilder"] , "Süddeutsche Zeitung", 16 June, 2006] It also questioned the reliability of the video footage following the incident, alleging that one of the dead bodies next to Huda's father is later seen alive and carrying a gun. Citing other cases of Pallywood, the report suggests that both the video footage and the site of the blast may have been manipulated.

Channel 10 report

On 19 June Israel's Channel 10 television's Shlomo Eldar reported that shrapnel from an Israeli shell was discovered in the body of one of the Palestinians wounded in the blast (twelve-year-old Adham Ghaliya). An IDF spokesman responded that "Unfortunately, Channel 10 persists in publicizing falsehoods despite having been given the true facts". [ [ "IDF rejects as "lie" new report linking shelling, Gaza beach deaths"] , Ha'aretz, 20 June, 2006]


Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, initially referred to the event as a "bloody massacre" and demanded international intervention. [ [,,1794536,00.html "Death on the beach: seven Palestinians killed as Israeli shells hit family picnic"] , "The Guardian", 10 June, 2006] The Defense Minister of Israel Amir Peretz sent the Palestinian leader a letter of condolence, [ [ "Abu Mazen convoca un referéndum sobre la creación de un Estado Palestino mientras su pueblo clama venganza contra Israel"] , "Diario ABC", 10 June, 2006 (in Spanish)] but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected any calls for an international investigation into the tragedy, [ [ "Olmert rejects international probe into Gaza beach deaths"] , AFP, 18 June, 2006] and Ha'aretz have reported current UNSC president Ellen Margrethe Løj refusing to convene the council to discuss the incident unless Palestinian attacks on Israel were also considered, arguing that the blast did not occur in a void and that Israel was responding to terror instigated by others. [Shlomo Shamir, [] , "Ha'aretz" (in Hebrew)]

Israeli reaction

Following the conclusion of the Israeli investigation, defense minister Peretz said, "We showed the necessary restraint in light … of the international uproar that resulted, but it's over." In addition, the IDF have rescinded their temporary halt of shelling and airstrikes in the Gaza strip. [ [,29867,19465042-2703.html "Hamas "mined Gaza beach", "The Australian", 14 June, 2006] ] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed condolences for the deaths, but did not accept responsibility for the casualties. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni agreed and suggested that "There is a situation in which maybe … this was an explosive that was put on the beach for future attacks on Israel."


Hamas officially withdrew from its 16 month old truce and began taking responsibility for Qassam Rockets launched into Israel [ [ "Hamas breaks truce with rockets"] , "BBC Online", 10 June, 2006] . According to Israel, the former has been regularly violating it by firing rockets at Israeli civilian targets and other attacks [ [,7340,L-3257913,00.html "Hamas behind Qassam attack on Sderot"] , "YnetNews", June 1, 2006]

ee also

*Operation Summer Rains
*November 2006 Beit Hanoun incident
*Israeli-Palestinian conflict


External links

* [ "Palestinian girl keeps a painful secret"] Video of report by NBC News correspondent Martin Fletcher, June 19, 2006.
* [ "Gaza beach tragedy"] conclusive video

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