Summary: On June 9, an explosion on Beit Lahiya beach in northern Gaza killed eight Palestinian civilians. While the evidence and responsibility are unclear, numerous NGOs, the media and governments condemned Israel for "brutal", "reckless" and "disproportionate" actions. Human Rights Watch (HRW) was the leading NGO involved in the campaign, and in the weeks following the incident, officials exchanged charges with the IDF, and rejected the detailed evidence that contradicted the HRW/Palestinian claim that Israeli artillery fire, designed to end Palestinian missile attacks, had caused these deaths. As in many other incidents, the Palestinians and NGOs, led by HRW repeatedly demanded an "independent international investigation". Based on previous experience, Israel opposes such tribunals on the grounds that the members chosen by the UN or NGOs are generally biased and focus exclusively on the Palestinian agenda.
June 9 – An explosion on Beit Lahiya beach in northern Gaza kills eight Palestinian civilians. Palestinian Authority officials immediately condemn Israel and TV broadcasts doctored video, claiming to show an Israel warship firing on the Beit Lahiya beach, International media (Link has expired)repeat Palestinian claims and show video. Political officials from the UK Russia, Egypt, France and elsewhere criticize Israel over the incident.
June 10 – A number of Palestinian NGOs, including Miftah, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, condemn Israel based on the doctored video evidence and call for an "independent international investigation".
June 12 – Amnesty International issues a shrill press release headlined "Israel must end unlawful killings of Palestinians and stop reckless shelling" and echoing the Palestinian call for an "independent investigation."
June 12 – Marc Garlasco, a "senior military analyst" at Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent to Gaza in response to the incident, holds a press conference in which he concludes that Israel is responsible and echoing the Palestinian call for an "independent international investigation". HRW’s evidence includes unverified Palestinian claims and evidence provided by Palestinian "security officials". HRW issues a press release on June 13 repeating these charges:
"The evidence we have gathered strongly suggests Israeli artillery fire was to blame," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "It is crucial that an independent investigative team, with the necessary expertise, verify the facts in a transparent manner."
June 12 -The IDF holds a press conference presenting detailed evidence contradicting the Palestinian claims, including shrapnel removed from injured Palestinians brought to Israel for treatment that did not come from an Israeli shell. The source of the explosion was not specified.
June 13 – Marc Garlasco states "it would be a really ridiculous coincidence if there is active shelling and then suddenly an IED [improvised explosive device] goes off."
June 14 – UN Secretary General Kofi Annan criticizes Israel, based on NGO and media reports.
June 15 – Annan retracts criticism, stating that he was responding to press speculation and would wait for the full IDF report on the matter.
June 15 – HRW issue a second press release headlined "Israel: More Evidence on Beach Killings Implicates IDF. Palestinians Agree to Independent Inquiry" claiming that the time stamp from a Gaza hospital shows that the incident coincided with the IDF artillery attack.
"’The likelihood that the Ghalya family was killed by an explosive other than one of the shells fired by the IDF is remote’, said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch."
June 15 – Palestinian lobbying in UN (Link has expired) with the Arab League and Non-Aligned Movement press the campaign for an independent investigation, but the debate over the evidence undermines these efforts.
June 19 – Marc Garlasco, HRW’s military researcher, meets with Maj-Gen Klifi, who headed the IDF investigation, and accepts that the explosion could have been created by unexploded ordinance.
"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.
"Lucy Mair – head of the HRW’s Jerusalem office – said Klifi’s team had conducted a thorough and professional investigation of the incident and made ‘a good assessment’ when ruling out the possibility that an errant IDF shell had killed the seven Palestinians on the Gaza beach."
June 21 – HRW issues a third press release, contradicting statements to the Jerusalem Post that the IDF investigation was professional, and repeating its call for an independent investigation.
The IDF’s partisan approach highlights the need for an independent, international investigation.
June 21 – In press interviews (Link has expired), Lucy Mair stated: "This Israeli military investigation is incapable of uncovering the truth." (As noted by NGO Monitor, Lucy Mair has in the past worked for radical groups such as CESR and Electronic Intifada). In this interview, Garlasco is quoted again blaming Israel and repeating the call for an "independent investigation".