The Israeli strike that killed four Palestinian children that were playing on the beach in Gaza in 2014 was committed by an armed Israeli drone, according to an Israeli military police report that was obtained by The Intercept.
The report, which was confidential and concealed from the public until now, confirms that the four cousins were chased by an armed drone that mistook them for Hamas fighters.
The four Palestinian children, Ismayil Bahar (aged nine), Aed Bahar (aged ten), Zacharia Bahar, (aged ten) and Muhammed Bahar, (aged 11), were killed in June 2014.
According to the newly revealed report attained by The Intercept, which includes testimony from the drone operators, commanders, and intelligence officers who took part in the attack, an Israeli surveillance drone had identified a small shipping container on a jetty and had destroyed it a day before the attack that killed the four children. Israel reportedly had intelligence that indicated the shipping container had been used by Hamas naval commandos to store weapons.
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The next day, according to the report, a figure was seen entering the container that had been destroyed the previous day. The military then used an armed drone to attack the jetty. The missile killed the person who had entered the container. The drone operators then launch a second strike, which killed the three other children, as they fled across the beach.
Initially, the mission was considered "a success," according to one naval officer who gave testimony in the military police investigation. The IDF had apparently believed they had killed four Hamas militants. However, since the attack had taken place in broad daylight and near a group of journalists who had witnessed the strikes from their hotel terrace overlooking the beach, it quickly became clear that the four were children.
Initially, back in 2014, the IDF Spokesperson unit had difficulty coming up with an explanation for the explosions which killed the four children and wounded others and it took a few hours for them to begin to respond. Toward the end of the day of the attack, they began briefing reporters that the first explosion was most likely caused by an attack on a "legitimate" Hamas target and the second the result of misidentification of the fleeing children as Hamas fighters.
According to the report obtained by The Intercept, all the people involved in the strike, including the air force officer who coordinated the attack, informed investigators that they could not "tell they were children.”
Reportedly, after the first missile was fired and killed the first boys, sending the other children running, the drone team requested clarification from a superior officer about how far onto the beach they were permitted to fire.
However, they did not wait for the response. Instead, they fired a second missile at the fleeing children, about 30 seconds after the first strike, which killed three of the boys and wounded at least one more of their cousins.
The air force officer who coordinated the strikes told investigators that the intelligence the strike team had was starkly different from the facts on the ground.
The main new finding from the revealed report is that the IDF used a drone in this attack. The Israeli government maintains an official stance of secrecy around its use of drones to carry out airstrikes. According to The Intercept, this revealed report is "the most direct evidence to date that Israel has used armed drones to launch attacks in Gaza."