Last month, an Israeli military investigation has cleared its forces of wrongdoing over the deaths of four Palestinian boys killed in missile strikes on the beach of Gaza during the early days of the 2014 conflict with Hamas.
The Military Advocate General Corps investigated the incident, which took place on July 16 in view of the hotels where international journalists were staying, and concluded that there was no criminal wrongdoing.
The four young cousins who were killed were sons of the extended Bakr fishing family, ages 9 to 11. Several others were injured by shrapnel.
Images of the dead and wounded children being rushed from the beach toward ambulances were broadcast around the world.
The report concluded the boys had been mistaken for Hamas combatants preparing to attack Israeli forces.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said Israeli military police had carried out a “criminal investigation”, during which testimonies were gathered from Israeli troops involved in planning and carrying out the strike, and from three Palestinians who said they witnessed the attack.
The report said the incident happened in a compound separated from the civilian part of the beach and used exclusively by Hamas military.
One day before the strike, the report said the IDF had intelligence indicating that Hamas combatants would be gathering there to prepare an attack.
It said aerial surveillance saw several individuals believed to be militants entering the compound and that the order was given to launch a strike “after a civilian presence in the area had been ruled out”.
“It should be stressed that the figures were not identified at any point during the incident as children,” the report said.
The story of the strike was reported by the Independent, the Huffington Post, Reuters, Channel 4 News, the Times, the Telegraph, NBC News, CNN, the Washington Post, and others, but none of them questioned the premise that Israel was to blame for the deaths.
And why should the media have doubted it? The entire sorry event had been witnessed by numerous members of the international press corps staying at nearby hotels.
But did the journalists actually see what they think they saw? Not according to Thomas Wictor, a US-based weapons expert who has conducted a forensic analysis of what happened on the day, pieced together using Hamas propaganda footage, film from various international TV networks, and still photographs, and who has drawn a conclusion that the 4 Palestinian boys killed on the beach were not blown up by Israel but murdered by Hamas in a “Pallywood-style” propaganda stunt.
His testimony appears in a movie “War crimes in Gaza” by French filmmaker Pierre Rehov that was presented for the first time Tuesday in the European Parliament in Brussels during a seminar on ‘’The Anti-Semitism of Hamas’’ hosted by Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group.
The seminar was organized in collaboration with the European Jewish Association (EJA) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“It had become clear to me after studying the videos and the photos that this was a deception operation,” Wictor says in the film.
“The victims were not, as some media reports claimed, “scrawny fishermen’s kids” but members of a powerful family prominent in support of the Fatah Party – Hamas’s arch-rivals. In other words, Hamas had every reason to consider these children expendable.
According to him, a curious facet of the photos of the mangled corpses released by Hamas for propaganda purposes is the lack of bleeding from the boys’ deep and multitudinous wounds. “This suggests that they had been dead for some time before the alleged Israeli explosion ripped them apart,” he says. Wictor theorises that they were probably executed by Hamas the day before and that the corpses were then blown up in an explosion arranged by Hamas the next day.
“This theory would accord with the three explosions variously reported by eyewitnesses. At least the first of these was definitely Israeli – most probably a rocket fired,” Wictor argues, from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), as a result of false intelligence supplied by a Hamas triple agent.
The third explosion, he suggests, was most likely the one staged by Hamas to mangle the bodies and cover the evidence.
Wictor stresses that perhaps the most compelling detail of all is the footage showing the first reporter to arrive on the scene, Alex Marquardt of ABC news, running towards the site of the first explosion.
“He (and many others) are clearly shown running past the exact spot where the mangled bodies of three of the dead children were found later. But the spot is empty: no blood, no bodies, just sand. Had they been there, they would have been impossible to miss.”
This is one of many clues which leads Wictor to infer that the bodies were placed there later, once the beach had been cleared by the numerous Hamas operatives who stage-managed the stunt. Several of them are clearly visible in the footage, including a man in a purple shirt who appears to be in charge of the operation, plus various spotters and heavies. One of their tasks, according to Wictor, was to distract the press.
According to Wictor, the boys that are seen running in film footage and photographs may have been decoys. “There is also strong reason to believe that some of the media footage of the boys running along the beach was in fact shot the day before the incident and then spliced in by dishonest TV crews,” he says.
Pierre Rehov wonders why “so many cameras were filming the sea at this very moment? Were reporters expecting something to happen? Then, who informed them?”
According to Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, “it would not surprise me if the Hamas deliberately lured the IDF to attack this location, as they have done it many times in this conflict before… it is extremely unlikely that children would be targeted by the IDF.”
IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner claims that “The IDF had a Hamas terrorist target. We had intelligence pointing specifically to that location.”
In “War crimes in Gaza”, Bassem Eid, the founder and director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring group, holds Hamas responsible for committing war crimes against the Palestinian people. “Israel is using its own rockets and missiles to protect their people. Hamas is doing the opposite. Hamas is gaining power and money while more Palestinians are being victimized in Gaza…there is no doubt that Hamas used people as human shields. IDF sent messages to leave their houses. Hamas prevented them getting out of their houses by saying they are spies of Israel if they do.”
During Tuesday’s seminar, speakers, including Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Matthias Kunzel, Member of the German Council of Foreign Relations and Pascal Markowciz, Executive Chairman of the French Committee of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers International explained that Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, targets Israel because in fact it wants to kill Jews and the Jewish State. “There are differences between Isis and Hamas. But the core of their ideology is the same: Sharia rule instead of man-made rule, no joie de vivre but love of death, terror and murder against dissidents and hatred of Jews.” “When we read the Hamas Charter we are confronted with Adolf Hitler’s legacy,” said Pascal Markowicz.
“Hamas can never be a legitimate interlocutor for the EU until it abolishes its charter, renounces violence and terror and accepts past international agreements between Israel and the Palestinians,” remarked British MEP Charles Tannock, who is coordinator for foreign policy in the ECR group.