Israel clears itself over deaths of four Gaza children

Israel clears itself over deaths of four Gaza children
Internal investigation concludes no wrong-doing in the deaths of four children on a beach during the Gaza war last year. But the probe's conclusions are contradicted by witness accounts.
3 min read
12 June, 2015
The scene of the Israeli strike which killed four children last July [AFP]
The children were playing hide-and-seek by a Gaza wharf when the Israeli missiles struck. The first explosion sent the four boys running across an empty beach. The second strike hit them, and none survived the attack of July 16 last year.

Israel labelled the boys suspected Hamas fighters killed in a war and, after an "extensive criminal investigation", yesterday exonerated itself of any wrongdoing in their deaths. The Israeli army spokesman, Peter Lerner, said the missiles had targeted a Hamas naval police compound.

The missiles killed Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10, nine-year-old Mohamed Bakr and Ismail Mohamed Bakr, 11, all cousins from Gaza. 

Lerner said yesterday that the cousins, "were believed to be militants from Hamas's naval forces... it should be stressed that the figures were not identified at any point during the incident, as children."

But witness accounts of the attack draw very different conclusions. Many western journalists were sat just a hundred yards away in their hotels, and saw what happened. They told of the boys being flushed from a building in the first explosion, before being killed in a direct hit as they tried to run - despite their obvious size and age.

France 24 correspondent Gallagher Fenwick, said: "The first strike occurred, and we went out onto our balcony... we saw four very young children running away from the point of impact on a completely empty beach, so very clearly visible from a distance.
     You couldn't mistake them even through the smoke, it was obvious they were children.
- Peter Beaumont, Guardian journalist.

"That's when there was a second strike that obviously hit the other children. These children were clearly simply playing around and were very, very clearly visible from a distance.

William Booth, of the Washington Post, also witnessed the attack. "We saw a small fisherman's shack on the quay, churning with grey smoke. We saw a gang of kids running from the shack. Then a second strike landed right behind them."

Peter Beaumont, of the Guardian: "You couldn't mistake them even through the smoke, it was obvious they were children. There was no warning signal or sound of airplanes before the explosions."

Beaumont reported on Friday that he was not approached to give evidence during the Israeli investigation.

Shortly after the attack, the boys' uncle, Abdel Kareem Baker, 41, said: "It's a cold-blooded massacre. It's a shame they didn't identify them as kids with all of the advanced technology they [Israeli military] claim they're using."

The Israeli conclusion on the attack this week came days after Israel was left off the UN's "list of shame" of children's rights violaters, despite killing more than 500 children during the 2014 Gaza war.