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Gaza beach bombing that killed four boys was legal, says Israeli army

The killing of four boys on a beach in Gaza during summer 2014 was ruled as having met Israel's laws by a military tribunal
An Israeli airstrike targeting Gaza killed 4 Palestinian children playing on the beach (AA)

Israel announced on Thursday that no criminal charges will brought against members of its army responsible for the deadly attack last summer on a Gaza beach that killed four boys from the same family.

Ahed Atef Bakr, 10, Zakariya Ahed Bakr, 10, Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, 11, and Ismail Mahmoud Bakr, 9, were killed on 16 July when Israeli forces shelled a beachfront in the Gaza Strip.

It was one of the defining moments of the 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza, which saw some 2,220 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, as well as 72 Israelis, who were mostly soldiers.

The boys were killed in full view of a hotel filled with foreign correspondents reporting on the conflict, which led to harrowing first-hand accounts of the attack, one of the most poignant of which came from the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont.

On Thursday, after conducting an internal investigation, Israeli army spokesperson Peter Lerner released a statement on Facebook that said the army had broken no laws by killing the boys.

“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,” read the statement, which said that the beach the boys were playing hide and seek on had been used by Hamas fighters to launch rockets at Israel.

“At the time that the decision was made, the attack was not, according to the assessment of the operational entities, expected to result in any collateral damage to civilians or to civilian property.

“The Military Advocate General found that the professional discretion exercised by all the commanders involved in the incident had not been unreasonable under the circumstances […] 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.”

Defence for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) was alarmed by the growing number of Israeli killings of Palestinian children during the Gaza offensive.

DCIP's executive director, Rifat Kassis, said at the time of the attack: "Israeli forces continue to target and kill children and civilians on a daily basis, making Israeli military statements claiming that these deaths are tragic mistakes simply meaningless."

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

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

Thursday night's statement said the military was also closing the files on the 21 July air raid on a residential tower block in central Gaza City, in which it said 15 people were killed, and a 29 July 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 9 July 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.

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