Israel's High Court of Justice denied a petition on Sunday that had sought to reopen an investigation into a 2014 Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip during the war with Hamas in which four Palestinian children from one family were killed.
“With all of the sorrow and heartache over the tragic and difficult outcome of the event in this petition, I did not find that the petitioners pointed to a flaw in the decision of the attorney general,” said Sunday’s ruling, signed by High Court President Esther Hayut.
The bombing killed four members of the Bakr family – Ismayil, 9, Aed, 10, Zaharia, 10, and Mohammed, 11. The incident came after an IDF force spotted a number of suspicious figures at a facility on a beach at Khan Yunis, which in retrospect it turned out were the four children.
The incident drew widespread international attention, in part because many foreign journalists staying in nearby hotels witnessed the incident.
According to the High Court decision, the children were in the vicinity of a shipping container that was used to store weapons and that had been attacked by the IDF a day before. In light of the circumstances, the IDF decided to attack the four figures from the air.
The attorney general at the time, Avichai Mendelblit, rejected the parents’ request to reopen the investigation after the military advocate general ordered it closed. The decision to close the file was explained as justified by real time information in the IDF’s possession regarding preparations by Hamas members at the site to carry out an immediate attack. The facility had also been known to the IDF to be a closed and fenced Hamas military zone.
In their petition, in which they were joined by the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Al Mizan Center for Human Rights and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the parents claimed that Attorney General Mendelblit’s decision lacked a sufficient factual basis, that it violated Israeli and international law and that the investigation of the incident was inadequate.
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The High Court panel, which also included Justices Isaac Amit and Alex Stein, ruled that two professional and independent legal bodies – the military and civil enforcement systems – had thoroughly examined the evidence as well as the petitioners’ factual and legal arguments and had decided not to press criminal charges against those involved in the incident. The court need not interfere in that decision, the justices ruled.
The petitioners responded to the ruling by claiming that it serves as more proof that Israel can't conduct an effective investigation into its soldiers' actions. "This clear case shows how the entire justice system rallies to defend the Israeli aggression. Even with clear evidence of war crimes, it leaves approaching the International Criminal Court in The Hague as the only option.