Witness to a shelling: first-hand account of deadly
strike on Gaza port
There is a deafening explosion, then a second. Four
children are dead. Four survivors reach the safety of
Peter Beaumont in Gaza
16 July 2014 16.02 BST
Palestinian employees of al-Deira hotel carry a
wounded boy following a strike on the beach in Gaza.
Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images
The retaining wall of Gaza's
harbour sticks out into the Mediterranean about 100
metres from the terrace of al-Deira hotel, base to many
of the journalists covering the conflict in Gaza. The
first of the artillery shells came in a little after 4pm
on Wednesday as I was writing on the hotel's terrace.
There is a deafening explosion as it hits a structure on
the pier, a place we have seen hit before, where
fishermen usually store their nets. Behind the smoke, I
see four figures running, silhouettes whose legs are
pumping raggedly. They clear the smoke. From their size
it is clear they are a man and three young boys.
Where the harbour wall ends and the beach starts, there
are a few brightly coloured tents and chairs for beach
users in more peaceful times. The four figures jump on
to the beach and begin running towards us and the safety
of the hotel.
Smoke billows from a beach shack following the in
Gaza City which killed four children. Photograph:
Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images
Only afterwards do we discover
there are four others who are dead, all children, lying
on the wall. I am shown a picture of one of the dead
boys, his skin scorched and bruised. Their names are
released later: Ahed Bakr, aged 10; Zakaria, 10; and two
other boys from the Bakr family, both named Mohammad,
aged 11 and nine.
The second shell catches the survivors as they reach the
brightly coloured tents. As it explodes, my colleagues,
now standing by the terrace wall, shout at unseen
Israeli gunners who can't hear them: "They are only
The man makes it to the terrace first, scrambling up a
steep sandy bank. A skinny man in his 30s, he groans and
holds up a T-shirt already staining red with blood where
he has been hit in the stomach. He faints, and as he
grows pale and limp he is carried to a taxi waved down
in the street.
Palestinian employees of Gaza City's al-Deira hotel
carry a wounded boy following the shelling nearby on
the beach. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images
The children are brought up
next. Pulling up the T-shirt of the first boy, who looks
about eight years old, we find a shrapnel hole, small
and round as a pencil head, where he has been hit in the
chest over the second rib. Another boy, a brother or
cousin, who is uninjured, slumps by the wall of the
terrace, weeping by his side.
The boy cries in pain as we clean and dress the wound,
wrapping a field dressing around his chest, pressing to
staunch the bleeding. He winces in pain, and he is
clearly embarrassed too as a colleague checks his shorts
to look for unseen femoral bleeding.
A waiter grabs a table cloth to use as a stretcher, but
a photographer takes the boy in his arms to carry him to
the ambulance that has arrived.
Employees of Gaza City's al-Deira hotel take care of
a wounded boy. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty
Other colleagues work on the
final surviving casualty, an older boy. His arms are
scuffed, and a bandage around his head barely staunches
a head wound. He too is quickly carried to the
In less than 10 minutes it is over. Even the smoke on
the pier has died away, save for a last few drifting