IDF clears forces of wrongdoing in killing of four children on Gaza beach

The Israeli military has found that there was no wrongdoing on the part of its forces in the controversial missile attack on a Gaza beach during last summer's conflict with Palestinian militant groups which killed four children playing football.

The boys, Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakaria Ahed Bakr, both aged 10, nine-year-old Mohamed Ramez Bakr and 11-year-old Ismail Mohamed Bakr, were killed by two missiles on 16 July. Two other children and one Palestinian man were injured. Israel's advocate general's office said that the killing of the four boys who were all related was a "tragic accident".

The IDF stated that it had conducted a "criminal investigation" which used testimonies from Israeli troops involved in the operation and three Palestinians who claimed to have witnessed the missile attack.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Peter Lerner published a statement on his Facebook page yesterday revealing the findings of the IDF's internal investigation, claiming that the strike occurred because the area had "long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas's Naval Police and Naval Force" which, he said, was "utilised exclusively by militants".

"On 16 July, aerial surveillance identified a number of figures entering the compound at a running pace," the IDF statement said in regard to the alleged confusion of the children for militants.

"Against the backdrop of the aforementioned intelligence assessment, these were believed to be militants from Hamas's Naval Forces, who had arrived at the compound in order to prepare to execute the aforementioned military activity against the IDF," the statement continued. "It should be stressed that the figures were not identified at any point during the incident, as children."

Mohammed Bakr, father to one of the boys killed in the strike, told Associated Press in reaction to the investigation's findings: "There is no justice in the internal investigation".

The IDF's account of events seem to contradict those of many Western journalists who were staying in a hotel in close proximity to the strikes. The journalists were some of the first people to go and try help those who were injured and reported their accounts of what they had witnessed.

The Guardian reported that, immediately after the attack, its correspondent "saw a small and dilapidated fisherman's hut containing a few tools where the children had been playing hide-and-seek" and not a compound for militants.

Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer for Palestinian children's rights group Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP), claims that such an outcome was expected as Israeli authorities "persistently fail to investigate alleged violations of its military".

"This decision involving the killing of the Bakr boys, one of the most visible attacks from the assault, is proof that Israeli authorities have no interest in addressing the status quo of systemic impunity," he says.

"It's hard to for us to accept that the Israeli military was unable to identify these were children playing on a beach," Parker adds. "As long as Israeli forces are not held accountable, Palestinian children will continue to suffer grave violations."

Last summer's 50-day Gaza conflict, the third in six years, saw Israel's military launch Operation Protective Edge. The fighting saw over 2,100 Palestinians - mostly civilians - killed, according to Palestinian sources, and 72 Israelis - all but five soldiers - killed, according to Israeli sources.

Palestinian sources yesterday revealed that a delegation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is set to arrive in Israel later this month to review Palestinian allegations of Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

Another report on the conflict, by the UN Human Rights Council, is expected to be presented at a meeting of international body later this month.