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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 20:08 GMT 21:08 UK
Israel beach probe 'not credible'
Israeli military panel leader Meir Klifi
Israel pulled out all the stops to rebut accusations of involvement
A US-based human rights group has questioned an Israel army report that exonerated troops of killing eight Palestinian civilians on a Gaza beach.

"An investigation that refuses to look at contradictory evidence can hardly be credible," Human Rights Watch said.

Israeli investigators declined to inspect evidence gathered by other sources, saying it may have been faked.

The deaths on 9 June drew international condemnation. Militant group Hamas cancelled its informal truce.

"The [Israeli army's] partisan approach highlights the need for an independent, international investigation," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Palestinians would have to have engaged in a massive and immediate conspiracy to falsify the data
Human Rights Watch investigator

Israel says it has refuted accusations of its responsibility for the deaths using shrapnel recovered from casualties and its timeline of events.

But evidence collected by Human Rights Watch indicated the civilians were killed within the time period of Israeli shelling of the beach, contrary to Israel's assertions, a statement from the group says.

During a meeting with the military investigator, Meir Klifi, Mr Garlasco says he put forward the possibility the blast was caused by the delayed explosion of an Israeli shell fired earlier that day.

The army fired more than 80 155mm shells in the area, Human Rights Watch says, and one of these may have got stuck in the sand waiting to be detonated.

Mourners at funerals of Beit Lahiya dead
Most victims of the blast were from one Palestinian family
Israeli investigators have suggested the blast could have been caused by a mine planted by Palestinian militants to deter Israeli commando raids.

The head of the Israeli military panel is reported to have told Mr Garlasco that the Palestinians had "no problem lying" about the incident, so he discounted their evidence.

"If the Israeli allegations of tampered evidence are to be believed, many Palestinians would have to have engaged in a massive and immediate conspiracy to falsify the data," said Mr Garlasco - a former Pentagon intelligence analyst.

"The conspirators - witnesses, victims, medical personnel and bomb disposal staff - would have had to falsify their testimony, amend digital and hand-written records, and dip shrapnel into a victim's blood," he said in a Human Rights Watch statement

"It beggars belief that such a huge conspiracy could be orchestrated so quickly."

The army has not responded to HRW's statement.

Israel and the Palestinians



Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
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