IDF: No Details Deleted From Gaza Blast Probe

The Israel Defense Forces yesterday rejected a report in the Times of London that said the army erased details from its probe into the Gaza beach blast last week, in which seven Palestinian civilians were killed.

According to the British newspaper, the IDF deleted from its report details concerning shelling of the beach by Israel Navy vessels off the Gaza coast.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said the Times made use of incomplete information, and added that the quote in its story attributed to an IDF officer was inaccurate and taken out of context.

The IDF investigation team last week concluded "beyond all doubt" that the family was not hurt as a result of Israeli shelling.

The head of the investigation, Major Meir Klifi, said late last week that the blast most likely stemmed from a bomb placed by Palestinians at the site or "some form of unexploded ordnance."

He added that the probe on the latter point was continuing.

The IDF emphasized again yesterday that it had not caused the deaths of the seven, all members of the same Palestinian family, by artillery fire from the sea or land.

It also ruled out the possibility the blast was caused by an air strike.

According to the Times report, IDF officers admitted that two artillery shells were fired from a naval vessel between 4:24 P.M. and 4:55 P.M. ? around the time that the Palestinian family was killed.

The Times report maintained that this shelling was not included in the IDF investigation into the incident.

The IDF last week rejected the possibility that the Palestinians were hit by shells fired from a navy ship, because shelling in the area only took place earlier in the day.

The Times also reported that the IDF officers said these shells landed far from the Gaza beach.

According to the Times, the United Nations received a radio call from one of its officials in northern Gaza at 4:43 P.M.

Presented with the evidence of the UN transmission, Klifi said the 4:33 P.M. report was an earlier incident, near the abandoned settlement of Dugit.

Gal-On demands international probe

Last night Meretz faction leader MK Zahava Gal-On called on the government to establish an international panel to investigate the beach blast.

Gal-On said Israel has a "moral responsibility" to determine the true circumstances of the incident and added that Israel should be a party to the investigative commission.

"Credibility is an asset of the utmost importance and Israel has an interest in maintaining its credibility," Gal-On said.

The Meretz leader said her demand is based on the most recent findings released by the press and international human rights groups, according to which the IDF was directly involved in the explosion.

The Palestinian Authority again demanded an international probe into the incident.