Gaza City – Relatives of four Palestinian children who were killed by an Israeli air raid while playing on a Gaza beach eight years ago have denounced a decision by Israel’s Supreme Court to reject a request to reopen an investigation into the deaths as inhumane.
Four members of the Bakr family – Muhammad 12, Zakaria 10, Ismail 10, Ahed 11 – were killed during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza while playing football on the beach.
In a ruling last Sunday, Israel’s top court upheld earlier decisions by Israeli authorities that determined the killings were a mistake.
Mohammad, 60, the father of one of the children killed, told Al Jazeera he was not surprised by the ruling.
“It is normal in life under Israeli occupation; [Israel] commits a crime and then denies it completely,” he said. “The world talks about children and their rights. Where are the rights of our Palestinian children?”
“The killing of our children is a stain on Israel’s forehead. Israel has all the modern capabilities and advanced weapons. Was it difficult for them to determine that they were children?” he added.
On that day, a picture of Mohammad screaming hysterically and trying to tear off his clothes was widely circulated.
“The hardest moment in my life ever was seeing my child cut into shreds in the morgue along with my nephews. They were all cut to pieces.” the father of seven said.
He said the court’s decision was absurd, given the evidence of the incident captured by reports and video footage.
“If this is not a war crime, what are war crimes?” he said.
‘We will not give up’
Between July 8 and August 26, 2014, Israel’s offensive on Gaza killed 2,251 people, most of them civilians, including 299 women and 551 children. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians died.
On July 16, 2014, Israeli attacks hit the seaport area in Gaza near to where the Bakr children were playing. The first attack killed one of them, the second killed the other three while they were trying to escape. Four other children in the Bakr family and two civilians working in the area were also wounded.
The incident sparked widespread anger and was witnessed by foreign journalists who were at a nearby hotel.
The Israeli military admitted that it had launched the attacks, called the deaths, “a tragic outcome”, and launched an internal investigation into the killings.
In mid-2015, Israel closed the investigation, claiming the area was used by fighters of Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip.
Three human rights organisations – Gaza-based Al-Mezan and Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and Israeli group Adalah – filed the appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court to seek a criminal investigation into the incident.
In a joint statement, the groups slammed the court’s rejection of that appeal as “another indication that Israel is incapable and unwilling to prosecute Israeli soldiers for war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
Salwa Bakr, 48, mother of Mohammed, 12, cried as she described her feelings of loss to Al Jazeera.
“Eight years of bitterness, agony, and physical torture,” she said. “What is the sin of my children and nephews? We in the Bakr family refuse the Israeli decision. Israel is the killer of our children, how come it would act as the judge?” she said.
She said the family would continue to fight for justice and called on the International Criminal Court to take action.
“We will not give up no matter what,” Salwa said.
In 2021, the ICC opened an investigation into alleged Israeli crimes in the Palestinian territories – including actions during the 2014 war.
Ahed Bakr, Zakaria’s father, called out what he said were double standards between attitudes of much of the international community towards Russia’s war in Ukraine, and Israeli attacks on Palestinians
“The Russian aggression was classified as a war crime, and no one [takes action about] the crimes committed against our children over the past 60 years.”
“We reject killings and wars everywhere, but humanity is indivisible. We do not wish to see what happened to us from the killing of our children be repeated anywhere in the world.”
Ahed called for international investigators to be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip and document Israeli crimes against children and civilians.
“Those who were involved in the killing of our children must be prosecuted. With all the Israeli military technology and the accuracy of locating the bombing sites, wasn’t it clear with them that our children were playing?”
“Our family will not stay silent until all the murderers are brought to a fair trial,” Ahed said.