The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Gaza beach deaths

Jumping back in to the blogging game from Gaza... Rumors have it Palestinian factions will announce agreement tonight, but for now with regards to the beach deaths, Hossam mentioned Saturday's Guardian report. In fact all three British tabloids, Guardian, Telegraph and her majesty's Times took the Israeli army's account to task on Friday and Saturday, but it was the Times that had the more damning account, including an internal UN radio call contradicting the crucial Israeli timeline of events:

Israel says that its land artillery batteries fired six shells at northern Gaza between 4.30pm and 4.48pm that afternoon, and that it can account for all but one, which was fired at 4.30pm. However, its investigation said that that shell was aimed too far away to have killed the Palestinians.The investigation relies heavily on timing. It cites surveillance footage of the beach showing that it was quiet between 4.54 and 4.57pm, and film of ambulances apparently arriving at the scene at 5.15.

It says that the incident must therefore have happened between 4.57 and 5.10pm — at least nine minutes after it says it stopped firing land artillery.

But The Times has established that at 4.43pm the UN received a radio call from one of its officials in northern Gaza that said: “At 16.33hrs IDF artillery shelling has started again targeting the northern area, two artillery shells so far. One of the shells fell down at the coast west of the evacuated old Dugit settlement, some casualties among the people spending their day at the . . . � Transmissions could be picked up by anyone with a scanner, which are widely available in Gaza.

The UN in Gaza has confirmed the Times report is accurate.
The Times report also pointed out that the Israeli inquiry totally failed to mention two shells that were fired from an offshore gunboat around the time of the deaths. The shell that killed the beachgoers wasn't from a gunboat, according to an ex-Pentagon analyst now working for Human Rights Watch, so it's perhaps a moot point, but for skeptics, it might cast doubt on just how forthcoming the army was in its internal inquiry.

Israel's response is apparently that their report did include mention of those shells, but that they were not included in the executive summary, or press statement about the report. Only problem is that the inquiry itself hasn't been made available to the public.

And whereas the Guardian and Telegraph are regarded here as radical lefty, anti-Israel bully pulpits, the Times has a slightly more balanced reputation among Israelis.

As one right-leaning Israeli analyst said: "The Guardian and the Independent are so profoundly anti-Israeli, who cares what they say. London Times is different. It's not automatically anti Israeli."

The Times report comes in addition of course to the investigation by Human Rights Watch's Marc Garlasco, an ex-Pentagon battlefield damage analyst who said the blast was undoubtedly a 155mm shell "most likely" fired onto the beach by Israeli guns.
On the flip side is this report in the German daily SuedDeutsche, which says the video of the orphaned 10 year old screaming over her decimated family was staged. This was the same claim made by some after the Mohammad al Dura shooting in 2000.