According to reports, an Israeli missile strike killed four Palestinian children on a beach in Gaza today. Both The Guardian's Peter Beaumont and the Washington Post's William Booth offered a first-person accounts of the immediate aftermath of two explosions that took place earlier today. From Booth's dispatch:
On the quay, ambulances took away four more. They either died on the pier or at the hospital, I am not sure. The Gaza Health Ministry tweeted their names a few minutes later: Mohammed Baker, 9; Ahed Baker, 10; Zakaria Baker, 10; and Mohammed Baker, 11.
All cousins, we are told, scrawny fishermen’s kids whom we saw every day, running around on the beach, playing in the waves.
There are also photos quickly making the rounds on the internet:
While the Times of Israel said the images could not be independently confirmed, New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks tweeted that he witnessed the attack firsthand.
Witnessed 3 young boys killed by Israeli ordinance on an otherwise empty beach this afternoon in Gaza City.— Tyler Hicks (@TylerHicksPhoto) July 16, 2014
Local media have provided a very graphic video of the aftermath. According to Israeli radio, the IDF has appointed an investigator to look into the strike.
In a press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, who is visiting the region, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed the blame for the deaths at the feet of Hamas for rejecting the Egyptian ceasefire on Tuesday. Israel's cabinet voted to accept the proposal, which was endorsed by the Arab League, the Palestinian Authority, the U.S., and the United Nations.
In recent years, Israel has engendered furious criticism as it's engaged in asymmetrical warfare, the nature of which pits Israel, a state with borders and a powerful army, against groups like Hamas in Gaza (2009, 2012, 2014) and Hezbollah (2006), which operate in population centers.
In each of these battles, the complexion of the conflicts has often changed following one specific event in which innocent civilians are killed by Israel. International pressure is ratcheted up against Israeli strikes and Israel's allies back away from their calls of support for Israel's right to defense.
In the 19th day of its 2006 conflict with Hezbollah, there were reports that an Israeli airstrike had killed as many as 60 civilians in the town of Qana. (The death toll was later revised to 28.) Following the ensuing international firestorm, Israel suspended its airstrikes for two days as calls for Israel to suspend its operation accompanied condemnations.
No matter what the IDF investigation concludes, today's strike on the beach in Gaza has the potential to become a fulcrum point in the fight between Israel and Hamas in both the physical conflict and the public relations battle.
Speaking this afternoon, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest echoed Netanyahu's statement earlier when asked about where the blame goes in the Israeli-Gaza conflict.
Asked about placing blame in Israel-Gaza, @PressSec says "we certainly would like to see Hamas accept the terms of the ceasefire"— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) July 16, 2014