How the PA Blamed Israel for the Deaths on the Beach

By Hillel Fendel

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) released a report on Saturday full of inaccuracies about the incident – and has not yet released a correction or apology.

The organization, whose reports are widely relied upon by the United Nations and other organizations, announced the following:

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“PCHR’s preliminary investigation indicates that the attack which killed seven members of the same family took place at approximately 16:40 on Friday, 9 June 2006. An Israeli naval boat stationed off the coast of Beit Lahya fired seven successive artillery shells at civilians on the beach in the Waha area, north of Beit Lahya. The shells landed on the beach, which had been crowded with civilian men, women and children at the time. Seven civilians from the same family (father, mother and five children) were killed. A sixth child from the same family escaped death but was seen on television crying hysterically beside her father’s body. A further 32 civilians, including 13 children, were injured… Israeli television Channel 2 broadcast footage of the Israeli boat firing the shells at the beach, with one of the navy soldiers scanning the beach with binoculars; thus indicating that the crime had been perpetrated with a premeditated intent to kill.”

An indication of PCHR’s bias is the fact that it consistently refers to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as the IOF – the Israeli Occupation Forces. The organization gathered data that led to the issuing of an arrest warrant in Great Britain against Gen. (ret.) Doron Almog in 2005 for “war crimes.” He was to be charged with overseeing the dropping of a one-ton bomb in Gaza that killed Hamas arch-murderer Salah Shehadeh and several children in July 2002.

Despite the PCHR claim that the explosion occurred at 16:40, the IDF investigation showed that the explosion did not occur before 16:58. IDF Southern Command O.C. Gen. Yoav Galant said that the IDF artillery in the area stopped firing at 16:51, and that at 16:58, “the IDF’s electronic surveillance did not show any unusual activity on the beach.”

Arab affairs expert Yonatan D. HaLevy writes, “The PCHR version has turned rumors into ‘facts’ which then become ‘proof’ for PCHR to determine that Israeli naval soldiers ‘meant to kill’ the family.”

Writing for the NFC Hebrew news site, HaLevy adds, “The IDF fires 155mm artillery shells towards open areas in order to thwart the Kassam launchers, and often warns the locals not to be there. In the present case, it is very doubtful as to whether the family was hit by a 155mm shell. I carefully reviewed the video clips disseminated by the PA television, and the documentation of [Channel Two], and I did not find the large hole that a 155mm shell [would have made].”

HaLevy said that for their part, the Arabs of the PA “made sure to exhibit the bodies of the dead, but refrained from showing the crater and the shrapnel as proof of their claims.”

Gen. (ret.) Yom Tov Samiyeh said, “It is almost certain that the incident [in which seven members of one family on a Gaza beach were killed in an explosion] was an accident caused by the Palestinians, and that the Palestinians took advantage of the situation to besmirch Israel.”

“I can imagine,” Samiyeh said, “that there was some sort of mine, or at worst, even a set-up that the Palestinians arranged.” He added that during his years of army service as IDF Southern District Commander, he experienced a number of incidents in which the Arabs set up attacks on citizens.

The IDF investigation has so far shown that Israeli Navy ships definitely did not fire towards the beach at that time, based on the type of wounds and other evidence. HaLevy notes that video clips of navy sailors firing and scanning the beach were photographed at an earlier hour., in a detailed review of the topic, notes that “many in the international media [rushed] to conclusions in the immediate aftermath of the terrible incident. For example, despite suggestions that a single artillery shell was responsible, the Guardian claimed that “a barrage of Israeli artillery shells rained down on a busy Gaza beach…”, while the Independent, without waiting for confirmation or otherwise, attributed the incident to “Israeli naval gunboats”. In fact, while the most likely explanation is a single stray artillery shell, the possibility of a Qassam missile fired from Gaza itself has not yet been discounted and has been made more difficult to ascertain due to Palestinian refusals to cooperate with Israeli investigators.”