Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Israel denies role in deadly Gaza beach blast on Yahoo! News

Yahoo! News

Israel on Tuesday denied responsibility for an explosion on a Gaza beach last week that killed seven Palestinian civilians and led militant group Hamas to call off a 16-month truce.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz told reporters the explosion was not caused by the Israeli Defense Forces but did not provide an explanation for what might have caused the blast, which killed several members of the same family.

Major General Meir Califi, who headed the army's investigation into Friday's incident, said Israel's shelling of Gaza had stopped by the time the beach explosion occurred.

"The chances that artillery fire hit that area at that time are nil," Califi told a news conference.

Hamas, which heads the Palestinian Authority after winning elections earlier this year, has blamed Israel for the explosion, which came on a day of heavy shelling of Gaza.

Israel frequently fires artillery rounds into the coastal strip in response to Palestinian rockets fired at Israel.

There has been a surge in violence between Israel and the Palestinians since the beach explosion, the immediate aftermath of which was caught on film and showed an 8-year-old girl desperately searching for her dead father.

An investigator from international rights group Human Rights Watch told reporters in Gaza earlier that evidence pointed to Israel having fired the shell, but he had to leave the door open to the possibility that the explosion was caused by something else.

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