NGOs reject Israel’s closure of investigation into Gaza beach killings

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The Israeli army's decision to close the investigation into the killing of four Palestinian children on a Gaza beach last summer has been rejected by human rights groups. In a joint statement, Haifa-based Adalah and Gaza-based Al Mezan take apart the justification given by Israel's Military Advocate General for taking no further action.

The NGOs stress how "testimonies collected from witnesses confirm that the site of the attack was not being used for military purposes, in stark contrast to the Israeli army's claims in its report. This site is part of the fishermen's port, which is adjacent to a coffee shop and next to a number of hotels and an event location. The testimonies show that people who were sitting in the coffee shop were also injured by shrapnel from the attack."

The statement further notes how "foreign press sources, who stayed at the site for long periods of time, confirmed that the site was used by fishermen on a consistent basis, and could be easily entered via the public beach of the port."

Even if the site was sometimes used as a military site, the NGOs added, "that alone does not justify indiscriminately bombing people located there, especially as Israel has acknowledged that at the time, there were no ongoing hostilities from this site, which is required by international laws of war."
Al Mezan and Adalah note with incredulity that the Israeli army, despite its "high technological capabilities", was still unable "to recognize that these small children, without any weapons, are not fighters from the Hamas movement...preparing to carry out combat operations."

Disturbingly, the human rights organizations revealed that "although four witnesses from Gaza gave affidavits" to the Military Advocate General's office, "the Israeli army asked only one witness – a child who suffers from post-traumatic stress" to come in person to testify at the Erez checkpoint.
The other three witnesses expressed their willingness to give their testimonies, but were never approached. Notably in the press release, the Israeli army stated that witnesses from Gaza who were invited to testify refused to attend.
The conclusion, according to Adalah and Al Mezan, is that "a fair system does not and cannot investigate itself, and those who commit war crimes cannot hold themselves accountable for those crimes. This case shows that the Israeli investigation system is deeply flawed and contradicts international law and norms of investigation."

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