Beach play turns into tragedy for Palestinian children as Israel strikes port

Journalists living in hotels nearby witness horror as four young boys from the same family are killed by Israeli strike while playing football on the beach.
Smoke billows from a beach shack following an Israeli military strike, on July 16, 2014, in Gaza City which killed four children. Thomas Coex / AFP
Smoke billows from a beach shack following an Israeli military strike, on July 16, 2014, in Gaza City which killed four children. Thomas Coex / AFP

GAZA CITY // An Israeli attack killed at least four children at a Gaza City port yesterday, adding weight to accusations that Palestinian civilians are being targeted in the war.

A group of children and young adults appeared to be deliberately targeted in a strike that followed about 40 seconds after an initial blast, which witnesses said had killed the four children.

Hospital officials identified the children as Ahed, 10, Zakariya, 10, Mohammed, 11, and Ismael, 9, all members of the Bakri family. Witnesses said the boys were playing football on the beach next to the port when they were hit.

“It was clear that the fire was readjusted at them,” said a journalist who saw the attack from a hotel next to the port.

The journalist said the wounds were inflicted by shrapnel. It was unclear whether the attack was carried out by an Israeli naval vessel, helicopter or drone.

The army said the deaths appeared to be the “tragic outcome” of an Israeli strike. “Based on preliminary results the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives,” it said.

Pictures and video of the attack on the port showed the mangled bodies of the children lying on the beach, one with his legs blown off.

“He was cut in half,” said Mohammed Abu Kweik, a driver for journalists staying at a nearby hotel.

It was unclear why Israel targeted the port, which has been struck several times during the conflict. Witnesses said they did not see militant activity such as rocket fire in the port area where the family of the dead children worked as fishermen.

In the eight-day war of 2012, a hotel in the area was damaged by an Israeli airstrike that hit just metres away.

Witnesses said the second strike at the port wounded several others among the group of children and young adults as they fled for safety after the first attack.

Some of the wounded, who suffered from shrapnel wounds, were given first aid by journalists.

Human Rights Watch said yesterday that Israeli attacks have been “targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war”.

“Israel’s rhetoric is all about precision attacks, but attacks with no military target and many civilian deaths can hardly be considered precise,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at HRW. “Recent documented cases in Gaza sadly fit Israel’s long record of unlawful airstrikes with high civilian casualties.”

hnaylor@thenational.ae

Published: July 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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