A spokesman for the Israeli military said Thursday that soldiers involved in the shelling of a Gaza beach last summer that killed four children would not be charged and that an investigation into the incident had been closed.
"The tragic outcome of the incident does not affect the legality of the attack ex post facto," Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner wrote on his Facebook page. "Accordingly, the Military Advocate General ordered that the investigation file be closed without any further legal proceedings — criminal or disciplinary — to be taken against those involved in the incident."
In one of the most well-documented incidents of the 49-day Gaza war last summer, cousins Ahed Atef Bakr, 10, Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10, Mohamed Ramez Bakr, nine, and Ismail Mohamed Bakr, 11, were playing on the beach in Gaza City on July 16 when they were hit in air strikes. Dozens of journalists witnessed the attack as it happened, since several hotels popular with the foreign press were directly in front of the area where the children were killed.
This video shows the immediate aftermath of the attack on the beach.
Israel's military has previously acknowledged that its forces had shelled the beach on July 16, but said they were investigating the details of the attack.
In the 11 months since, the image of the boys running on the beach has been transformed by Palestinian artists into a memorial, to remember the war. Palestinian officials told BuzzFeed News that the incident is likely to be among those presented by the Palestinian government to the International Criminal Court as evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes.
Israel's military, however, has argued that its own internal probes will be sufficient to quell calls for an international investigation. Israel has opened cases into approximately 100 incidents in the nearly one year since the war that killed an estimated 2,200 Palestinians, and 73 people on the Israeli side.
"After reviewing the investigation's findings, the Military Advocate General found that the attack process in question accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements," wrote Lt. Col. Lerner.
Lerner added that on the previous days, the IDF had launched a series of attacks on the beachfront, including on a container believing to hold weapons.The beach, he wrote, was commonly used by Hamas' Naval Forces for training and to store weapons.
Lerner wrote that on June 16, "aerial surveillance identified a number of figures entering the compound at a running pace. These figures entered a shed adjoining the container which had been attacked the day prior. Against the backdrop of the aforementioned intelligence assessment, 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."
Lerner continued that it became clear "after the fact" that the identification of the figures as Hamas militants was in error.
In a separate statement from the IDF spokesman's office, the military said it was also closing its investigations into the July 21 air raid on a residential building in central Gaza City, in which it said 15 people were killed, and a July 29 air strike on the southern town of Khan Yunis which took the lives of several members of the same family.
The full statement from Lerner can be viewed here:
Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F
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