What happened when Palestinian children were killed in front of a hotel full of journalists


The mother of one of the four Palestinian children from the Bakr family, who medics said were killed by a shell fired by an Israeli naval gunboat, grieves outside the morgue in Gaza City July 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Al Deira Hotel is regularly used by Western journalists when they travel to the Gaza Strip. Correspondents say that they are attracted by its good food, consistent wi-fi connections, and, most importantly, the fact that it is open (many other hotels in Gaza have closed in recent years).

One more selling point, however, is its location. The hotel has a terrace that allows views of the beach and the Mediterranean Sea. Wednesday afternoon, unfortunately, it offered something different: A chance to witness the death of  four children.

Mohammed Bakr (aged 9), Ahed Bakr (aged 10), Zakaria Bakr (aged 10), and Mohammed Bakr (aged 11) were playing on the beach when an Israeli missile or shell landed near them and they were killed. Israel has targeted dozens of locations in the Gaza Strip since the latest round of hostilities broke out. However, thanks to Al Deira, this attack was different: Not only was an attack on the beach hard to justify militarily, it was also witnessed by a large number of foreign journalists.

The Post's own William Booth was there. The victims were "scrawny fishermen’s kids," he writes, "whom we saw every day, running around on the beach, playing in the waves."

Other journalist have posted their own accounts. Here's Ayman Mohyeldin of NBC News:

Jonathan Miller of the United Kingdom's Channal 4 News:

Peter Beaumont of the Guardian:

Nick Casey of the Wall Street Journal:

(Another image tweeted by Casey is too graphic to embed).

This video, posted by Palestinian journalist Bashar Taleb, shows the press at the scene:

 

Right now, it's not clear why the beach was being targeted – the Gaza health ministry told Reuters that the attack seemed to come from a Israeli gunship. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told Haaretz's Anshell Pfeffer that the children were misidentified as "fleeing fighters."

Killing children on a beach in front of journalists is obviously terrible and illogical. But children have of course died already in this current conflict – on Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that 39 of the 209 Palestinians killed so far by Israeli strikes were children. These deaths did not take place in front of the Al Deira hotel.

Correction: This post originally misspelled the family name of those who died. It has been corrected.

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
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