Published on 12 Jun 2015

Gaza child deaths – the view from the shoreline

On 16 July the Israeli air force killed four children playing football on the beach near Gaza’s harbour.

Today Israel has exonerated its military from any criminal charges relating to the action. It says they were playing in a “compound” clearly identified in the minds of Gazans as an operational base for Hamas naval police.

The not guilty conclusion has been drawn after examining footage, presumably from the drones that circle constantly over that part of Gaza, from the viewpoint of the attacking aircraft itself, and from the very hi-resolution optical devices from ships patrolling offshore.

You can read the full account from Israeli military spokesperson Lt Col Peter Lerner here, and if you want, read the comments from Israelis calling for Gaza to be reoccupied, and slamming the IDF for admitting it was an F16, and not Hamas itself, who killed the boys.

Read more: Israel clears itself of wrongdoing over Gaza child deaths

We have no access to the IDF’s evidence, but here are the questions that hover in my mind. The Hamas naval police, and its elite scuba-diving units, would be seen as a high value target to hit.

Two days after I arrived the “compound” was hit again, at around 5am, with a massive precision guided missile.

The questions

If the Israelis believed a platoon of naval commandos was preparing to attack, given the high resolution imagery available, why did they not ask why it was happening in broad daylight?

Why did they not notice that the ingress route to this “compound” – in fact a small fishing hut – was via the beach and that the activity the boys had been engaged in was football?

Why did their telemetry not notice the difference between grown Hamas commandos – whose physique tends to reflect time spent in the gym – and those of 10-year-old boys?

Why after the first missile hit, killing the first boy, did the “realtime visual surveillance” not notice the difference between the way a child runs and the way a gym-toned military trained commando runs?

Teenage Gazans

Above all, the claim that the targets were legitimate because it was a “compound” clearly separated from the civilian beach is questionable to anybody who spent time there during the fighting. Hamas, who are themselves accused of war crimes by Amnesty International, all but disappeared underground, into the tunnels.

Two-thirds of Gazan society are children and teenagers. The common practice was for them to play and wander everywhere, enjoying the absence of barriers and sentries at all kinds of locations.

I did not at any time during my 10 days in Gaza see an operational Hamas base; no area was identifiable at ground level as an off-limits and clearly military compound.

Certainly the harbour was not.

I arrived in Gaza 10 days after the 16 July incident, on the first afternoon of the first ceasefire since the killing started.

I went to see the site where the four children had been killed and was surprised to see dozens of children swimming and bathing in the shallows, less than 100 metres from the spot where their friends had been killed.

Here's the picture I took.

It's a bit closer than the vantage point the drones and F16 pilot had, but you can judge for yourself how like a sub-aqua commando unit they look.

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6 reader comments

  1. Robledal Pedregoso says:

    A few months ago, a dying child caught in the Syrian carnage said ‘ I will tell God everything’. So, thousands of innocents are slaughtered and the UN (In)Security Council basking in its depraved indifference does nothing! How long are we the people of the world are going to not hold that gang of connivers accountable? As for our useless Congress, how long are we going to allow it to led by agents of a foreign government and sabotage the POTUS? Newsflash! Prepare for 100 years of terror due to assassin gangs and state sponsored terror if a two state solution is not agreed to/imposed on Israel/Palestine AND the Kurds( of Syria,Turkey,Iraq,Iran) are provided at least some autonomy. I for one don’t want the Orwellian nightmare for my descendents! The current ‘system’ is for the benefit of the plutocrats and military-industrial complexes and not for humanity. The Sykes-Picot stupid dismemberment of the ME and the idiotic neocon Iraq War are enabling the continuing infection raging in Israel/Palestine and we have to get off our collective behinds and demand an end t it.

  2. John Kerr says:

    Excellent report Paul.

  3. Rafa says:

    As long as the world turns a blind eye to the conduct of the IDF, innocent Palestinians including women and children will be killed, with accountability. The world is so eager to dismiss Russia from the world stage, from hosting the Olympics, the world cup and participating in Eurovision, they should be more concerned with putting a stop to the numerous human rights abuses by Israel.

  4. Fatema Patwa says:

    Isreal’s response to the killings is typical of those engaged in atrocities, denial and blaming the other side.

    So disappointing that its Citizens have not learnt from the lessons of history and are not more vocal against propoganda that de-humanises and thereby justifies violence against the innocent. Isn’t it time that the people of Isreal and Palestine made peaceful and common cause against their violent states?

  5. Rman El-Bahnassawy says:

    Mr Mason You are one of a kind in terms of honesty, decency and courage when it comes to putting your well balanced views on international affairs across to channel 4 news viewers. Your questions in this blog, should have been put forward to the Israeli military tribunal. But what justice are we as Palestinians expecting from our occupier, tournamentor and assassins!
    Nonetheless, God bless you for all you have done to stick by your high standard of journalism and human values.
    Love to you Jon Snow and Jonathan Miller (a few good men)

  6. Rafa says:

    The US is complicit in IDF’s atrocities! The Israeli lobby in America is far too powerful, and as long as they wield this power there will be no accountability. Israel is allowed to literally get away with murder. The EU and the UN have a hand in ignoring the IDF and its appalling conduct. They should start with imposing sanctions on Israel! Hit them where it hurts! Those giving funds to the IDF should be classed as funding state sponsored terrorism, and all Israeli assets should be frozen. Treat them like any other terrorist organisation. Meanwhile, we have the power to do something. I agree we should get off our collective behinds and boycott companies which support the IDF. To those few journalists who do bring our attention to such horror, you are the salvation of the dispossessed.

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