vrijdag 12 juni 2015

Israel clears itself of culpability for the killing, last year, of four little boys playing football

Bakr children
The four dead little boys from the Bakr family. (Photo AP)

The Guardian:
The Israeli military has cleared itself of culpability in one of the most controversial incidents in last summer’s Gaza war: a missile attack that killed four children on Gaza beach and injured a number of others. Israel’s advocate general’s office said the attack, which led to the death of four boys aged between nine and 11 was a “tragic accident”. An account of the investigation, posted late on Thursday by military spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner, said the strike had targeted a “compound” which had been known as belonging to Hamas’s Naval Police and Naval Force (including naval commandos)”.
But journalists who attended the scene in the immediate aftermath of the attack – including a reporter from the Guardian – saw a small and dilapidated fisherman’s hut containing a few tools where the children had been playing hide-and-seek.
Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, 11, Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakariya Ahed Bakr, both 10, and Ismail Mahmoud Bakr, nine, were killed when they were hit by explosive rounds. Three of them died as they sought to flee the beach after the first child was killed.
Three other people were injured in the attack: Hamad Bakr, 13, was hit by shrapnel in his chest; his cousin Motasem, 11, injured in his head and legs, and Mohammad Abu Watfah, 21, who was hit by shrapnel in his stomach.

The conclusion of the Israeli military investigation comes while the Israel is under a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court to establish whether war crimes were committed during the Gaza war – both by Israel and Hamas. The finding will inevitably raise questions over the way in which Israel investigates incidents in which civilians were killed.
“During the investigation,” it added, “testimonies were collected from a large number of IDF soldiers and officers who were involved in the planning and execution of the attack.”
The statement continued: “Additionally, an extensive number of documents relating to the attack were reviewed, along with video footage documenting the attack in real time, as well as media images and video footage which documented parts of the incident.
“Efforts were made to collect the testimonies of Gaza strip residents who were, allegedly, witnesses to the incident. In this context, the collection of testimony from three witnesses was coordinated. Regretfully, despite the prior coordination, the witnesses eventually declined to meet the investigators, and instead provided affidavits in regard to the incident.”
Although the attack was witnessed by a Guardian reporter, no attempt was made by the Israeli military investigators to seek a statement.
The conclusion of the Israeli military investigation comes while the Israel is under a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court to establish whether war crimes were committed during the Gaza war – both by Israel and Hamas. The finding will inevitably raise questions over the way in which Israel investigates incidents in which civilians were killed.
Israel’s conduct in last summer’s war was thrown under a harsh spotlight last month with the publication of the testimonies of dozens of soldiers who served in Gaza, collected by the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence, which included allegations that the Israeli military did not meet its obligations to protect civilians in wartime.
According to the UN, 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the 50-day conflict, of whom 1,492 were civilians, 605 militants and 123 unverified.

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