Israel says it is investigating the death of four boys killed in an airstrike yesterday on a beach in front of a hotel used by many of the journalists covering the Gaza conflict. Witnesses from outlets including ABC and the Guardian saw the attack and its aftermath. A group of boys had been playing among fishermen's shacks when a blast hit one of the shacks, killing one of the boys, witnesses say. As four surviving boys ran away, they were hit by another shell that had apparently targeted them directly, killing three boys and badly injuring another. As the second shell hit, "journalists standing by the terrace wall shouted: 'They are only children,'" Peter Beaumont writes in the Guardian. The dead boys were identified as two brothers and two cousins from the extended Bakr family, aged between 9 and 11.
"Based on preliminary results, the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives," the Israeli military said in a statement. "The reported civilian casualties from this strike are a tragic outcome." An Israeli military affairs journalist tells the New York Times he has seen information suggesting the beach hut had been identified as a Hamas target, but while the fleeing boys may have been mistaken for militants, "it is a little hard for me to understand this, because the images show that the figures are children." An uncle of the boys describes the killing as a "cold-blooded massacre" and says "it's a shame they didn't identify them as kids with all of the advanced technology they claim they're using." Other relatives say the boys had been mostly cooped up inside during the Israeli offensive, and one of them had been beaten the day before for defying his father's order to stay away from the beach. A five-hour cease-fire agreed to by both sides for humanitarian reasons began this morning and Gazans are scrambling to stock up on food, reports the BBC. (Read more Israel stories.)