Friday, 12 June 2015

No charges as Israel closes probe into deadly Gaza beach bombing


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The Israeli army said on Thursday that it was dropping proceedings over a July 16 bombing of a Gaza beach where four children were killed during last summer's war.

"The... case has been closed following the completion of a criminal investigation," it said in a statement, adding that two other cases involving Palestinian deaths in the fighting had also been closed, but a criminal investigation had been launched in an attack on a cafe in which nine were killed.

Cousins Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakaria Ahed Bakr, both aged 10, nine-year-old Mohamed Ramez Bakr and 11-year-old Ismail Mohamed Bakr were playing on the beach in Gaza City when they were hit in strikes witnessed by journalists staying at a beachfront hotel.

The death of the four boys was well documented and brought international outcry against policies that allegedly enabled the Israeli military to kill civilians.

Israeli military police carried out an "extensive criminal investigation," Israeli army spokesperson Peter Lerner explained in a statement released on Facebook.

"From the factual findings collected by the investigators, it [the investigation] revealed that the incident took place in an area that had long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas's Naval Police and Naval Force (including naval commandos), and which was utilized exclusively by militants," Lerner wrote, adding that the military had carried out a series of attacks on the compound in days prior The boys were allegedly playing hide and seek in the compound when the military attacked.

Lerner explained that on July 16, aerial surveillance had identified "a number of figures entering the compound at a running pace," which entered a shed near a container which had been attacked the day before.

"Against the backdrop of the aforementioned intelligence assessment," Lerner writes, "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. It should be stressed that the figures were not identified at any point during the incident, as children."

The investigation into the beach bombing closed just one month after testimonies from Israeli soldiers and officers who fought during last summer's war were released to the public, raising serious concerns over whether Israel's military adhered to the most basic principles of International Humanitarian Law.

The testimonies -- collected by Israeli military watchdog Breaking the Silence -- tell accounts of indiscriminate fire in civilian areas, orders to regard every individual inside of Gaza as a "threat," and the shelling of buildings in revenge without any military objective. more

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