Four children killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza beach become symbols of assault
Palestinian man carries the body of a boy, whom medics said was killed by a shell fired by an Israeli naval gunboat, on a beach in Gaza City, July 16. REUTERS Photo / Muhammed TalateneAs the Israeli operation on Gaza entered in its 9th day, the strikes caused the most revolting deaths so far by killing four children of the same family as they were playing at the Palestinian enclave’s beach July 16.
Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra gave names of the four, all cousins and children of fishermen: Ahed Atef Bakr, aged 10, Zakaria Ahed Bakr, also 10, Mohamed Ramez Bakr, 9, and Ismail Mohamed Bakr, 11. One of their father’s had ordered them to stay indoors and away from the beach, according to a New York Times report. But the young children defied their parents “the eldest shooing away his little brother, telling him it was too dangerous.”
One of the children was killed instantly, the report says. The three others died after a second blast. One of the bodies was completely burned, while another was missing a leg.
“In the space of 40 seconds, four boys who had been playing hide-and-seek among fishermen’s shacks on the wall were dead,” writes Peter Beaumont, The Guardian’s correspondent in Gaza describing the scene.
Other children, who also were playing nearby and ran for safety in a hotel as two Israeli blasts hit the surroundings of the beach, had been severely injured. They were helped by hotel staff and journalists, like 13-year-old Hamed Bakr, who was hit by shrapnel in his chest, the AFP reported.
It was unclear if the strikes were the result of naval shelling, but several hours later, the Israeli military acknowledged the deaths as “tragic” and announced an investigation into the incident.
“Based on preliminary results, the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives,” the Israeli statement said.
So far, the assaults have claimed the lives of more than 150 civilians, including more than 40 children in an operation that was started as retaliation for the killings of three Israeli teenagers.
'They were just playing'
Wails of lamentation could be heard during the funeral hours after the strike. The bodies of the cousins were draped with Fatah flags and buried in the cemetery that has become a sanctuary for the lost.
Relative Khamis Bakr, 47, shook with anger as he spoke. “They were playing on the beach, they’d gone there to get away from Beach Camp because there was a lot of shelling there,” he said. “They walked right into their deaths.”
Zakaria’s grandfather pushed through the mourners to the four small bodies and kneeled down, apparently in shock.
“The children were just playing, they had told one of their mothers they were going to the beach,” he said. “We didn’t know anything had happened, and then we heard on the radio that there had been a strike and people from the Bakr family had been killed. And then I knew that the children were gone.”