Israel's army has launched an investigation into the strike that killed four boys, but military spokesman has blamed Hamas for the deaths
Four children were killed on a beach in Gaza City on Wednesday, medics said, in Israeli shelling witnessed by a number of international journalists.
The four boys, aged between nine and 11, were playing on the beach when the Israeli army struck with artillery fire, according to Palestinian sources and a number of journalists at the scene.
Several injured children took refuge at a hotel nearby, where journalists staying administered first aid before ambulances arrived to transfer the wounded to hospital for further treatment.
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A second and third missile then struck as they ran, setting fire to huts on the beach, as terrified children began shouting that there were dead and injured.
The strikes appeared to be the result of shelling by the Israeli navy against an area with small shacks used by fishermen.
The Hamas Health Ministry has now named the four children killed as Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10, Ahed Atef Bakr, 10, Mohammed Ramez Bakr, 11, and Ismail Mohammed Bakr, 9. The four boys were all extended family members.
The Israeli army has now launched an investigation into the incident, although senior military spokesperson Moti Almoz moved swiftly to say Hamas is responsible for the deaths.
“There was a [military] target embedded among civilians,” he said, according to the Times of Israel.
In a separate statement, an Israeli military source told AFP: "based on preliminary results the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives. The reported civilian casualties from this strike are a tragic outcome."
Hamas has responded to the incident by calling on the international community to denounce Israel for “crimes” committed against Palestinians in Gaza.
“Four [boys] were killed playing soccer today,” Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri told a press conference on Wednesday. “We call on [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki Moon to condemn the killing of children in the Gaza Strip.”
“The obstacle here isn’t our rockets but the crimes committed by Israel against our people,” he added.
The funeral of the four children took place in Gaza City on Wednesday afternoon and the streets were packed with mourners.
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