An Explosion, Then Bloodied Children: What I Saw on Gaza Beach



Wounded-boy
Palestinian journalists take care of a wounded boy following an Israeli military strike nearby on the beach, on July 16, 2014 at Gaza City's al-Deira hotel.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — We had just come back to the Al Deira Hotel from reporting at a hospital and was about to edit our piece for Channel 4 when it happened.
There had been a lot of heavy shellfire and outgoing rockets all day, and I was standing by the hotel window when there was the loudest, god-almighty explosion. I saw smoke rising from the beach and from a little hut.

Within a minute, journalists were running out from the hotel and people were shouting and pouring out of buildings to help.
Three children, struck by missiles while playing on the beach, were quickly carried onto the hotel terrace. They were covered in blood.

One little boy had a serious chest wound — it looked like a shrapnel wound. His brother was lying very quietly on the floor; his head and upper body was covered in blood. Their other little brother was seemingly uninjured — he was just shaking and screaming in distress and shock.

As a reporter, I’ve covered many conflicts, in many places, and I’ve been to Gaza may times.
But witnessing the sharp end of this conflict, and feeling the sticky blood of children on my hands as I sought to help them, is a terribly distressing thing. It brings home to me — and I hope to anyone reading this — just how devastating this conflict is for a population that has nowhere to run.
At the hotel, it took about ten minutes to administer first aid to the children. Journalists and waiters then carried them out to the road where cars took the injured children to hospital.

What we didn’t realize at that point was that two other shells had targeted — and killed — four other children who had been playing football on the beach further down.

The four dead boys were taken to a nearby mosque and they were laid down in front of the mosque. You could see their little dusty feet from where they had been playing on the beach.
A huge crowd of mourners crowded the mosque and filled the streets outside. The imam of the mosque was clearly very upset. He reassured the boys’ parents that the children were now in paradise and he lamented what he called "this endless war inflicted by our enemy.”

After a short prayer, the four bodies were taken out and hundreds of men carried them to a cemetery for burial, just a short walk from where they had been killed. It was a deeply distressing thing to witness. But even in the somberness of the crowd, there was a real sense of rage at what had happened.

Then, within a couple of hours, I heard that another child had been killed in the southern Gaza strip.
Twice in the last three days, the Israeli Defense Force has released videos purporting to show airstrikes aborted because of the proximity of civilians including children. They make for impressive viewing.
But to cast what is happening here as a “humanitarian" bombing, in the light of what I witnessed today, would be laughable if it wasn't so sad.

The fact that Palestinian militant groups have fired out close to 1,200 rockets from Gaza into Israel, targeting civilians randomly, and Israelis, for their part, have struck more than 1,600 times inside Gaza almost suggests a military balance.
But when you assess a conflict it’s more often measured in the damage done and the casualties inflicted.
The asymmetrical statistics tell a story: one Israeli dead against more than 200 Palestinians killed, among them many civilians and children.
The asymmetrical statistics tell a story: one Israeli dead against more than 200 Palestinians killed, among them many civilians and children.

The people of Gaza are victims of Israeli military might but they are also victims of their own militant government’s futile effort to resist. Hamas does fire rockets from civilian areas — it is hard not to in Gaza: It’s a small and densely packed place.
The feeling among civilians who I have interviewed is that while they may not support Hamas, they need to get a peace deal that wins them some concessions — otherwise they know this is just destined to happen again and again.
Jonathan Miller is a Foreign Affairs Correspondent for Channel 4 news in London. He has covered conflicts, revolutions, natural and unnatural disasters and has won four Royal Television Society awards for Channel 4 News.
  • Gaza%20beach%20attack%2001

    Gaza Beach Attack

    An Israeli airstrike killed four Palestinian children while they played on the beach in Gaza City, Gaza on July 16th, 2014.
    IMAGE: MOHAMMED TALATENE/ANADOLU AGENCY/
  • Gaza%20beach%20attack%2002

    Gaza Beach Attack

    Smoke billowed from a beach shack after it was hit by Israeli missiles.
    IMAGE: THOMAS COEX/AFP/
  • Gaza%20beach%20attack%2003

    Gaza Beach Attack

    Palestinian employees of Gaza City's al-Deira hotel carry a wounded boy after the strike.
    IMAGE: THOMAS COEX/AFP/
  • Gaza%20beach%20attack%2004

    Gaza Beach Attack

    Relatives of the four boys killed during the Israeli strike mourn during their funeral in Gaza City. The deaths raised the overall toll in nine days of violence in Gaza to 213.
    IMAGE: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/
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    Gaza Beach Attack

    One of the four boys killed by the shelling is held by a relative.
    IMAGE: MOHAMMED TALATENE/ANADOLU AGENCY/
  • Gaza%20beach%20attack%2007

    Gaza Beach Attack

    Relatives and community members carrying the bodies of the four boys killed in Gaza City. The strikes appeared to be the result of shelling by the Israeli navy against an area with small shacks used by fishermen.
    IMAGE: MOHAMMED TALATENE/ANADOLU AGENCY/
  • Gaza%20beach%20attack%2005

    Gaza Beach Attack

    A relative of the four Palestinian boys, all from the Bakr family, mourns outside the morgue of al-Shifa hospital.
    IMAGE: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/
  • Gaza%20beach%20attack%2008

    Gaza Beach Attack

    The four boys, who were cousins and ages nine to 11, were killed while playing on a beach off a coastal road west of Gaza City, said Ashraf Al Kedra, a Palestinian doctor.
    IMAGE: LEFTERIS PITARAKIS//ASSOCIATED PRESS




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