Human Rights Watch: unexploded shell was “most likely cause” of Gaza tragedy

Marc Garlasco, the Human Rights Watch investigator who initially claimed that the June 9 horrific deaths of seven civilians on a Gaza beach were caused by incoming Israeli artillery fire, has revised his opinion, The Jerusalem Post reports.

On Monday, Maj.-Gen. Meir Klifi – head of the IDF inquiry commission that cleared the IDF of responsibility for the blast – met with… Garlasco, a military expert from the HRW who had last week claimed that the blast was caused by an IDF artillery shell. Following the three-hour meeting, described by both sides as cordial and pleasant, Garlasco praised the IDF’s professional investigation into the blast, which he said was most likely caused by unexploded Israeli ordnance left laying on the beach, a possibility also raised by Klifi and his team.

“We came to an agreement with General Klifi that the most likely cause [of the blast] was unexploded Israeli ordinance,” Garlasco told The Jerusalem Post following the meeting. While Klifi’s team did a “competent job” to rule out the possibility that the blast was caused by artillery fire, there were still, Garlasco said, a number of pieces of evidence that the IDF commission did not take into consideration.

The main argument between Klifi and HRW surrounded the timeline of the blast, which the IDF said took between 16:57 and 15:10, at least 10 minutes after artillery fire in the area had stopped. HRW however disputes this claim and basing itself on Palestinian hospital documentation, claims that the explosion actually took place right around the time of the IDF artillery fire.
Garlasco told Klifi during the meeting that he was impressed with the IDF’s system of checks and balances concerning its artillery fire in the Gaza Strip and unlike Hamas which specifically targeted civilians in its rocket attacks, the Israelis, he said, invested a great amount of resources and efforts not to harm innocent civilians.

“We do not believe the Israelis were targeting civilians.” Garlasco said. “We just want to know if it was an Israeli shell that killed the Palestinians.”

Is it reasonable to assume that those who never conceded they were wrong about the 2002 Jenin “massacre” will be equally reluctant to admit error about the Gaza beach “massacre“?

(Hat tip: Adloyada.)

Update: Human Rights Watch seems to be engaging in fancy word play without actually denying the Jerusalem Post’s account of what Garlasco said after his meeting with Major-General Klifi. See Judy’s latest post at Adloyada and this Jerusalem Post editorial. And yes, I was among those who initially assumed the Gaza beach tragedy was caused by incoming Israeli shelling on June 9.