Report details deadly drone strike on four Palestinian children
The killing of four Palestinian children aged 10 and 11 by an Israeli air strike on a Gaza beach during the 2014 war could have been prevented, internal documents seen by US website The Intercept show.
The boys were killed by an armed Israeli drone that fired two missiles, with the second one hitting and killing four and injuring several others.
On July 16, 2014, four children were playing near a shipping container on a jetty that had been destroyed by an Israeli air strike a day earlier because the Israeli military suspected it of being used as a weapons cache by armed members of Hamas.
However, experts, journalists and eyewitnesses have all contested the claim weapons were stored in the container, as no members of Hamas were seen in the vicinity and there was no second explosion following the air strike that destroyed it.
On the day of the attack, one of the children entered the remains of the container, and was spotted by two Israeli drones, one of which was armed.
An Israeli air force commander subsequently ordered the firing of one missile, killing the child inside the container.
According to the testimonies seen by The Intercept, Israeli military personnel suspected the children were carrying weapons.
Following that first missile strike, several other children also playing near the container, started running in an attempt to get away.
A picture taken by Al Jazeera correspondent Stefanie Dekker shortly after the first missile hit shows four children running away.
Pic i took after first strike appears to show 4 boys running away #gaza port then there was a second hit pic.twitter.com/K6xOOod52m
— Stefanie Dekker (@StefanieDekker) July 16, 2014
The Israeli drone operators, still watching the jetty, then asked their superiors several questions about what to do next and if they had clearance to continue the deadly assault.
After they did not receive a definitive answer, the drone operators fired a second missile that killed another three children and injured several others.
In total, four children died and four were wounded.
According to report, the investigation by the Israeli military after the event failed to investigate key discrepancies between statements by military officers about what exactly happened.
Statements from Israeli military personnel involved in the incident were taken months after.
They all claimed they did not know the targets they were firing the missiles at were children from the live footage that was sent to the air base from where the operation was being run.
The events occurred during the seven-week Gaza war, which took place in July and August of that year.
More than 2,250 Palestinians, including nearly 1,500 civilians, were killed and a further 11,000 were wounded in the conflict, according to Palestinian and UN estimates.
At least 18,000 Palestinian homes were completely destroyed, and 73 medical facilities were severely damaged.
Most of the destruction resulted from more than 6,000 Israeli air strikes in less than two months on heavily populated areas.
On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians died.