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The terrible price the children of Gaza are paying

By Charlotte Armstrong

July 18, 2014

More than 40 children have been slain since Operation Protective Edge began 11 days ago, according to data  collected by Defence for Children International. Within less than 24 hours of the failed Egypt-brokered ceasefire Tuesday night, a further 6 Palestinian children had been killed. Since Israel launched its ground invasion late Thursday, 4 more children have reportedly died in a targeted shelling attack, including a 5-month-old baby.

The shells were chasing them

In one of the worst single incidents of the conflict, an Israeli gunboat off Gaza's Mediterranean coast shelled a beach Wednesday evening, killing four children from the same family and critically wounding another youngster. According to reports9-year-old Ismail Mahmoud Bakir, 10-year-old Ahed Atef Bakir, 10-year-old Zakariya Ahed Bakir and 11-year-old Mohammad Ramiz Bakir, were playing on Gaza beach when two shells were fired.

Peter Beaumont, a Guardian reporter who witnessed the attack alongside many other international journalists, tweeted moments after the incident, "1st shell hit the harbour wall. It’s been hit before so I assume its on a pre-recorded grid. Gunner appears to have adjusted to hit survivors."  

Later, in his  article  for the Guardian, Beaumont expands on this description and reiterates the belief that the second shell specifically targeted the children. "The first projectile hit the sea wall of Gaza City's little harbour ... as the smoke from the explosion thinned, four figures could be seen running, ragged silhouettes, legs pumping furiously along the wall. Even from a distance of 200 metres, it was obvious that three of them were children."

"It was there that the second shell hit the beach, those firing apparently adjusting their fire to target the fleeing survivors...in the space of 40 seconds, four boys who had been playing hide and seek among fishermen's shacks on the wall were dead."

"If your sightings can’t see boys playing football on a huge wide beach, then there’s something wrong with your equipment"

In a televised interview with Channel 4, British anchorman Jon Snow questioned Mark Regev about the attack. Although the Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesman called the incident a 'tragedy’, he was largely unable to answer the question Snow kept returning to: "How, despite the most sophisticated weaponry in the whole of the Middle East, do you confuse boys running around with a ball on a beach?"

In a roundabout response, Regev insisted that the Israeli military does not target civilians. "I don’t believe the person who fired and killed those four boys knew that they were children," he added.

The Israeli army has now launched an investigation into the incident, although senior military spokesperson Moti Almoz was quick to blame Hamas for the boys’ deaths. "There was a [military] target embedded among civilians," he told  the Times of Israel.

Reckless warfare

This is not the first time that Israeli forces have struck civilians on the Gazan coastline.  On July 11, an Israeli attack on the Fun Time Beach café near the city of Khan Yunis killed nine civilians, including two 15-year-old children, and wounded three, including a 13-year-old boy.

An Israeli military spokesman said the attack was "targeting a terrorist" but presented no evidence that any of those at the café, who had gathered to watch a World Cup match, were participating in military operations, or that the killing of one alleged "terrorist" in a crowded café would justify the expected civilian casualties.

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

Israel’s ground invasion

Thursday brought new hope as a brief humanitarian truce, brokered by the UN, was called to allow the restocking of food, water and other essentials in the besieged Gaza strip. This ceasefire, however, ended at 3pm Thursday and since that time both sides have resumed firing.

It is reported that 3 children died only moments after the temporary ceasefire ended when a rocket hit the roof they were playing on in Gaza City's Sabra district. Neighbours told  Ma’an News Agency that 8-year-old Jihad, 7-year-old Wissam and 10-year-old Afnan were taking advantage of the relative calm that followed a brief truce between Israel and Hamas. After being cooped up in the house for days, the children wanted to play outside. All 3 died on the way to the hospital. 

Despite the temporary truce and efforts to negotiate a more permanent ceasefire, the recently launched ground invasion offers little in the way of hope. The killing of children in Gaza, for now at least, looks set to continue. 


:: Article nr. 108564 sent on 27-jul-2014 02:51 ECT


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