Middle East Monitor.com By Muhammad Hussein July 16, 2020
Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2014 — “Operation Strong Cliff” from 8 July until 26 August — was one its deadliest ever against the Palestinians besieged in the coastal strip of land. Aside from the destruction of the civilian infrastructure and its disproportionate use of air strikes, among the war crimes that Israel committed during this offensive was its often deliberate targeting of civilian areas.
This was arguably the most shocking crime of all.
On the afternoon of 16 July, four children belonging to Bakr family ventured onto the beachfront at Gaza City’s small harbour, playing near the boats that their fathers used as fishermen to earn a living. During the offensive, Israel banned all Palestinian fishermen from going out in their boats and essentially closed the port.
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED:
As the four cousins – 11-year-old Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, 9-year-old Ismail Mahmoud Bakr, and Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakariya Ahed Bakr, both aged 10 – continued to play with other children from their family, Israeli forces shelled the area and the fishing boats. One of the boys was killed immediately. The other three children started running from the beach when a second shell killed them too.
Three other members of the Bakr family were severely injured in the attack: 13-year-old Hamad Bakr was hit by shrapnel in the chest; 11-year-old Motasem Bakr was injured in his head and legs; and 21-year-old Mohammad Abu Watfah’s stomach was pierced by shrapnel.
A photographer for the New York Times, Tyler Hicks, witnessed the second strike after he heard “a loud, close blast.” He then heard the second blast while grabbing his equipment, later recalling that “I saw that boy running, and by the time I had reacted he was already dead. That’s the image that will stay with me.”
Following the killing of the four boys, the Israeli military admitted that it had conducted the strike and called it, dismissively, “a tragic outcome,” claiming that it mistook the children for Hamas militants. International outrage followed and Israel launched its own internal investigation into the killings, which was completed almost a year later in June 2015.
The resulting report essentially exonerated Israel from any responsibility: