Outrage over Israel closing of Gaza beach attack probe

Father of one of four Palestinian children killed in conflict last year voices anger after military ends investigation.

    The Israeli military says it mistook the Gazan children playing on the beach to be Hamas gunmen before killing them [AFP]
    The Israeli military says it mistook the Gazan children playing on the beach to be Hamas gunmen before killing them [AFP]

    The father of one of four Palestinian children killed on a Gaza beach during last summer's Hamas-Israel war has said he was outraged by the announcement from the Israeli military that it was closing its internal inquiry into the killings without any indictments.

    The father also said on Friday that he hopes the deaths would be part of a Palestinian war crimes case against Israel, which is expected to be presented to the International Criminal Court.

    "There is no justice in the internal investigation," Mohammed Bakr told The Associated Press. "We are counting on the ICC and human rights. We are not afraid and we are confident we will win because the world is with us."

    The four boys, all cousins aged 9 to 11, were killed while playing on a beach off a coastal road west of Gaza City during the war last summer. Seven others - adults and children - were wounded in the same air strike. The incident drew international attention and condemnation.

    Israel has, in the past, pointed to the credibility of its internal investigations as proof that the involvement of the ICC was unnecessary.

    Palestinians say the Israeli justice system is biased against them and complain the army rarely charges its soldiers with wrongdoing. The army's closure of the probe, announced in a statement late on Thursday, is likely to feed those perceptions.

    Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti told Al Jazeera that the outcome of the probe was evidence of "Israel running away from its responsibility", to account for alleged abuses.

    Military response

    Thursday's military statement was released late at night - something the Israeli military has done in the past when announcing the closure of similar investigations. The military said the boys' deaths were a tragic accident, caused when it mistook them for Hamas gunmen. It concluded that no international or Israeli laws of engagement were broken in the incident.

    Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said the announcement followed an extensive investigation by the military police, which questioned many soldiers involved in the planning and implementation of the strike.

    He said on Facebook that it took place in an area "which was utilised exclusively by militants". Aerial surveillance identified several figures, believed to be Hamas militants, enter a compound there.

    "It should be stressed that the figures were not identified at any point during the incident, as children," Lerner said.

    Witnesses at the time said a pair of Israeli air strikes hit the beach. The first strike hit a container on a nearby jetty and the second struck the children as they were running away from the first strike.

    The war last summer killed more than 2,200 Palestinians while 73 people died on the Israeli side.

    Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israeli population centres and heavily armed Gaza fighters tunnelled into Israel for attacks during the 50-day war. Israel used air strikes from jets, helicopters and drones as well as thousands of artillery rounds.



    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    What draws Kenyan women to join al-Shabab and what challenges are they facing when they return to their communities?