gaza beach blast 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Ralia Niham, the woman who was seriously injured in the Gaza beach explosion on June 9, regained consciousness at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) on Tuesday, but the hospital said she remains in serious condition.
Niham suffered serious damage to her abdomen and upper limbs, with cuts all over her body as a result of the surgical intervention performed on her at Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
Strengthening claims that the IDF was not responsible for the explosion, the Tel Aviv hospital said that no shrapnel was found in her body, except for one piece that was not reachable by surgery and would have to be left there. The damage to her body was "without doubt" caused by shrapnel.
Ichilov hospital did not accuse Shifa Hospital in Gaza of directly of removing shrapnel for no medical reason, but it said that it had never received a patient who was in an explosion with all the shrapnel removed (except for one unreachable piece).
"This is surprising and raises questions" about the care she received in Shifa, the Ichilov spokeswoman said. Asked whether Ichilov surgeons had contacted Shifa doctors who treated the patient to ask the reason for the incisions to remove shrapnel, the spokeswoman said: "We are not in such close contact with Shifa. We received the medical report on the patient, and that's all."
Israeli authorities say the chances are "one-in-a-billion" that she was hurt by an Israeli missile.
In most cases, some shrapnel remains in the victim's body and stays there for the rest of his life, the hospital said.
On Monday, the Human Rights Watch, while sticking to its demand for the establishment of an independent inquiry into a blast on a Gaza beach 10 days ago that killed seven Palestinian civilians, conceded for the first time since the incident that it could not contradict the IDF's exonerating findings.
On Monday, Maj.-Gen. Meir Klifi - head of the IDF inquiry commission that cleared the IDF of responsibility for the blast - met with Marc 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.
Meanwhile Monday, The Post learned that the IDF was currently inspecting a second piece of shrapnel doctors had retrieved from one of the Palestinians wounded in the blast and currently being treated at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. A first piece of shrapnel, examined by the IDF as well as by an independent academic institute in Beersheba was found to not have come from a 155 mm shell, the type used in IDF artillery attacks on Kassam launch sites in the Gaza Strip. The second piece of shrapnel, sources said, was currently being examined in an IDF lab.
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."
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.
'We differ when it comes to other pieces of information from other sources that don't relate to the military strike such as the timing and the type of injuries," Mair explained. "While they [the IDF] made a very good presentation, we still think there are enough unanswered questions that have not been examined by Klifi's teamâ€¦and that is why we believe there should be an independent investigation."