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It?s Final: IDF Not Guilty of Death on Gaza Beach

Physical proof exists that the seven Arab family members who died on a Gaza beach were not killed by an Israeli shell. IDF Spokesman comes down hard on Israeli newsmen who spread PA fabrications.
By Hana Levi Julian and Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 6/22/2006, 1:32 PM / Last Update: 6/21/2006, 7:49 PM

Maj.-Gen. Meir Kalifi, chief of the Israel Defense Forces inquiry commission into the cause of death of the seven Rhalia family members in a beachside explosion two weeks ago, presented the final conclusions. He told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday that shrapnel taken from the body of a second person wounded in the incident did not match Israeli ammunition. The boy, 12-year-old Adham, is hospitalized in Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva in serious but stable condition.

“The examination of a second piece of shrapnel retrieved from the body of a boy who was wounded in the blast unequivocally shows that the explosion was not caused by a 155-mm artillery shell,” announced Kalifi. The IDF was using 155-mm artillery shells in its bombardment of Gaza’s rocket launching sites that day.

The results had been awaited anxiously, particularly in lights of reports by Channel Ten reporter Shlomi Eldar. Eldar insisted, on both television and radio broadcasts this week, that the shrapnel was in fact of Israeli-origin, and that the IDF version was a lie.

IDF Chief Spokesperson Miri Regev wrote in Maariv today,
"Most Israeli reporters... ask hard questions, investigate, criticize... and make sure to operate in accordance with professional ethical codes that require caution and responsibility... To my great sorrow, throughout the period that the Rhalia family story has been in the news, the Channel Ten news department, led by journalist Shlomi Eldar, has chosen to adopt, without any question, the speculations and the questionable and fabricated evidence with which the Palestinian side tried - and still tries - to influence the world media... This is not genuine investigative journalism. This is wanton journalism... that prefers not to be bothered by the facts."

Regev outlined how the PA first attempted, by juxtaposing various video clips, to show that Israel had attacked the family from the sea. Later, when this was proven to be false, the Arabs "started disseminating, to anyone who wanted, pieces of mortar shells that were found within hundreds of meters of the site, spreading questionable data of handwritten incident time-lines, and giving wide coverage to various accounts of what happened - all, of course, according to the changing and flexible Palestinian story line."

The IDF's investigation into what did cause the explosion is continuing, according to Kalifi, and there were several explanations that are being looked into. “There is a possibility that the explosion was caused by an unexploded IDF artillery shell that landed on the beach weeks or months ago,” he said. “It is also possible that the blast was caused by an explosive device planted by a Palestinian terrorist group."

Officials at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, meanwhile, said that the wounds of a 21-year-old woman injured in the explosion seemed to have been tampered with, unnecessarily, before PA elements brought her to the Israeli hospital.

Prof. Gabi Barabush, head of the medical center, told Army Radio that when Ayham Rhalia was brought to the hospital with multi-system failure, he immediately checked her. “I saw her in the trauma section of the emergency room," he said, "and it was clear that she had undergone several superficial operations. It seemed strange.”

Barbush said that when doctors performed a CT scan on the young woman, “it emerged that she had almost no shrapnel inside her.” He added that there was no medical reason for PA doctors to remove shrapnel from her body.

Rhalia was admitted in very serious condition, with injuries to her stomach, hands and legs, and was sedated and put on a respirator to help her breathe. She has since regained consciousness, but remains in serious condition.

Kalifi added that intelligence gathering would continue to play a major part in the investigation. “We have in our possession [intelligence] information that supports our claim that the explosion was not caused by an Israeli artillery shell,” he said.

The commander of the IDF technological division explained further. “We carried out a check of the metal and found the explosives that were on it," said Lt. Col. Eran Toval. “In total, we carried out three independent analyses. The result was that the explosive was standard, but not characteristic of Israeli or American explosives in IDF service, and was not an IDF shell.”