Israel – A military tribunal has closed the case involving the killing of four boys from the same family on a Gaza beach during the summer of 2014. The Military Advocate General found that the attack process in question accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements.
Ahed Atef Bakr, 10, Zakariya Ahed Bakr, 10, Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, 11, and Ismail Mahmoud Bakr, 9, were killed on 16 July when Israeli forces shelled a beachfront in the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza beach bombing was one of the defining moments of the 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza, which saw some 2,220 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, as well as 72 Israelis. The boys were playing on the beach in Gaza City when they were hit by air strikes witnessed by Guardian journalist Peter Beaumont and other members of the media who were staying in the nearby hotel.
An excerpt from Peter Beaumont’s first hand account:
The first projectile hit the sea wall of Gaza City’s little harbour just after four o’clock. As the smoke from the explosion thinned, four figures could be seen running, ragged silhouettes, legs pumping furiously along the wall. Even from a distance of 200 metres, it was obvious that three of them were children.
Jumping off the harbour wall, they turned on to the beach, attempting to cross the short distance to the safety of the Al-Deira hotel, base for many of the journalists covering the Gaza conflict.
They waved and shouted at the watching journalists as they passed a little collection of brightly coloured beach tents, used by bathers in peacetime.
In the space of 40 seconds, four boys who had been playing hide and seek among fishermen’s shacks on the wall were dead.
The military tribunal stated that “At the time that the decision was made, the attack was not, according to the assessment of the operational entities, expected to result in any collateral damage to civilians or to civilian property.
“The Military Advocate General found that the professional discretion exercised by all the commanders involved in the incident had not been unreasonable under the circumstances […] The Military Advocate General ordered that the investigation file be closed without any further legal proceedings – criminal or disciplinary – to be taken against those involved in the incident.”
The incident is among those likely to be presented by the Palestinians to the International Criminal Court as evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes.
But the Israeli military has expressed confidence that its own internal probes will be sufficient to head off action by the Hague-based court.