The Bakr Boys case: still no justice for Palestinians in 2022

Human rights organisations have been battling for years to deliver justice to the Bakr family, who lost four children killed by the Israeli military forces. On 16 July 2014, the world watched with shock the killing of these children in the besieged Gaza Strip. In an airstrike, Israeli forces shelled a beach and harbour area in Gaza where the children were playing. The first shell killed one of the children, a second shell killed the other three while they were trying to escape. Four other children of the Bakr family and two civilians working in the area were also wounded. 

The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict concluded that the Israeli military had violated the principles of international humanitarian law in this case. Numerous other UN special Commissions of Inquiry looked into the repeated violations of international law in Palestine (in 2009, 2012 and 2018). These investigations, however, did not bring any change in the way Israel investigates and prosecutes such crimes.  

Between 8 July and 26 August 2014, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza left 2,251 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, including 299 women and 551 children. UN bodies and human rights groups were particularly appalled by the large-scale destruction following the military offensive: approximately 18,000 homes were razed and other public facilities such as hospitals were also destroyed according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 

The Israeli judicial system is designed to give an appearance of serious review… but this appearance crumbles down when looking closer at its results. 

Almost eight years later, and after the Israeli Military Attorney General in 2015 and the Israeli Attorney General in 2019 respectively decided to close the criminal investigation into these killings, the Bakr family still awaits justice. On 6 January 2022, the Israeli Supreme Court heard petitioners Adalah, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) on behalf of the Bakr family and stated that “it was convinced that the Israeli military had sufficient intelligence to determine that the perimeter of the area was indeed a military target.” The views of the Supreme Court disclosed at the hearing appear to side with the decisions of the Israeli military and the Attorney General. 

This crude recount of the events that unfolded on a summer afternoon of 2014, albeit sending waves of condemnation against the Israeli forces and authorities for their complete disregard of international law, has not resulted to date into any resemblance of justice for the family. The Israeli judicial system is designed to give an appearance of serious review for alleged crimes against Palestinians, but this appearance crumbles down when looking closer at its results. According to Adalah, Al Mezan and PCHR, “the Military Attorney General and the Israeli Attorney General have refused to conduct any genuine criminal investigations that may lead to an indictment in cases in which civilians in the Gaza Strip have been killed.”  

Alvaro Lagresa, Mashrek Programme Officer at EuroMed Rights