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No charges as Israel closes probe into deadly Gaza beach bombing

June 12, 2015 10:47 A.M. (Updated: June 12, 2015 7:05 P.M.)
Smoke billows from a beach shack following an Israeli military strike, on July 16, 2014 in Gaza City, which medics said killed four children.(AFP/File Thomas Coex)
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.

The July incident is among those likely to be presented by the PLO to the International Criminal Court as evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes.

On Jan. 16 the ICC announced "a preliminary examination" into Israel's actions over a period including the Gaza war in which over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, mainly civilians.

On the Israeli side 73 people were killed, of them 67 soldiers.

On April 1 the Palestinians acceded to the ICC with the goal of trying Israeli leaders over alleged abuses in the Gaza war and alleged crimes relating to the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But the Israeli military has expressed confidence that its own internal probes will be sufficient to head off action by the Hague-based court.

To Israel's mind, Hamas -- the movement which de facto rules Gaza -- is guilty of war crimes for launching rockets at Israeli civilians and using Palestinians as human shields.

Thursday night's statement said the military was also closing the files on the July 21 air raid on a residential tower block in central Gaza City, in which it said 15 people were killed, and a July 29 strike on the southern town of Khan Younis which took the lives of several members of the same family.

It said that military authorities had ordered criminal investigations into the deaths of nine people in an attack on a Khan Younis cafe on July 9 and into other allegations of abusing a detainee and unlawfully firing at a medical clinic.

It also said charges were filed over alleged looting of Palestinian property by Israeli soldiers.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
Comments
Mark of Lewiston / USA
So deliberately shelling kids playing soccer is OK in the IDF rule book? WOW.
12/06/2015 10:52
spb / usa
the truth finally came out
12/06/2015 11:04
Plain and Simple / Truths
-1- During both war and peace, mistakes can be made.
-2- During war such mistakes can be deadly, and
-3- If Hamas Hadn't Started Another War,
Many More Of Gaza's Children Would Be Alive. So,
Talks, Negotiations, and PEACE IS THE ANSWER.
12/06/2015 18:08
carlos / usa
Plain and simple truth israeli forces murdered mostly civilians in Gaza during summer of 2014 in a complete disregard for human life, 2500. Hamas, because of its greater respect for human life limited itself to killing israeli soldiers. Almost 100% of the people killed by Hamas were israeli soldier!
12/06/2015 18:58
Carlos / usa
Condolances to the family. May the kids rest in peace. How could israel find a Jewish soldier guilty of murder? Murder has been israels policy from its founding. The good part of this ruling ICC will have to investigate after this ridiculous ruling by israeli investigation.
12/06/2015 19:24
Outlier / USA
Conflict is a messy business. Innocent people can and do die. Hamas should recognize this fact before starting another one.
12/06/2015 19:52
@plain and simple / United Kingdom
The truth and the fact is Israel was only targeting children and civilians this war was their excuse to do what they did, come on let's all just face it Israel killed more children than Hamas in this bloody war and how many civilians and children did Hamas kill ??
12/06/2015 23:40
Hanan / Al Quds, Palestine
@spb/usa - you mean the truth will come out
13/06/2015 01:04
Llew / USA
@ simpleton----bibi started to rampade in the WB even though he knew the 3 squatters were dead, and the irgun manged to kill 6 palestinians who were no way involved---then bibi the war agreessor attacked the gaza strip killing several more Palestinians and after all of this Hamas did fire grads your
13/06/2015 01:21
Mel / UK
Don't worry Palestine. As Israel sinks under its monstrous war crimes, we know the self-evident truths. End your illegal Occupation Israel, or stand alone!
13/06/2015 13:57
Tom / USA
Less than 3% of Israel's murders of Palestinians are even investigated, let alone any charges brought against the killers. Make no mistake, the liquidation of the physical and cultural presence of Palestinians is what Israel is about. It's Mordor.
13/06/2015 18:56
@ the Editor / Truth
The photo shows that a building was attacked (which Israel believed was a Hamas base), with smoke coming from it, so
-1- It was Not a "beach bombing", and
-2- MAAN NEWS should not have LIED, by running earlier stories, with a photo of two boys playing football on the beach !!
14/06/2015 00:04
Tibi / Tubas
-1- HAMAS' war actions were illegitimate and unlawful, because they intentionally TARGETED CIVILIANS AND USED them as
HUMAN-SHIELDS, while
-2- ISRAEL's war actions were legitimate and lawful, because they
DID NOT, even if Gaza human-shield civilians died in large numbers !!
14/06/2015 19:00
Tobias / USA
-1- The IDF fought to protect Israeli citizens, while
Hamas fought to make martyrs of Palestinian citizens.
-2- Hamas placed its rocket launchers, weapons dumps, sniper nests, etc. in and around schools, hospitals, mosques and UN facilities, while
the IDF warned civilians ahead of attacks !!
15/06/2015 16:42
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