GAZA CITY — Four young Palestinian boys were killed Wednesday when two explosions hit a jetty and beach where they were playing at the fishing port of Gaza City, an area that had been considered relatively safe from the intense Israeli bombing campaign of the past nine days.
The first explosion left a small shack burning on the jetty. Several boys could be seen fleeing along the beach. About 30 seconds later came the second blast, and when the dust cleared, three figures lay motionless on the sand. One had most of a leg blown off, his body charred; a few yards away lay a smaller one with curly hair.
Men came running and scooped up three bodies. A fourth was found in the charred ruins of the shack on the jetty. A grown man, wounded, called for help from inside an outdoor beach cafe, and he too was carried away.
Israel’s military says it has taken extensive precautions to avoid killing civilians. But it has acknowledged, according to Israel Radio, that about half the people in Gaza killed so far were “not involved in terrorism.” Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Wednesday decrying the civilian casualties and demanding that Israel “end unlawful attacks that do not target military objectives.”
This is heartbreaking. Some international journalists were actually playing soccer on the beach with these children just minutes before they were murdered. All over the world, from San Pedro Sula to Gaza City to Chicago and Philadelphia, children are dying violently, most because of the short-sighted treachery and greed of adults.
But it's hard to find anywhere in the world where so-called "grown-ups" have failed the children more than this corner of the Middle East. The "grown-ups" of Hamas have callously worked to provoke Israel to gain international support, with the end result that Palestinian kids are killed in the crossfire, while the "grown-ups" who comprise the current government of Israel respond with unjustifiable force that kills mostly innocent civilians, including dozens of women and children. The fact that these Israeli leaders casually call these operations that invariably kill children "mowing the lawn" should be reason enough for them to look inside their soul, but of course that will not happen.
The people of Israel and the people of Gaza wants and deserve the same things that we do -- to live and love and watch their children grow into adulthood. This cycle of violence, which started long before I was born 55 years ago and seems likely to continue long after I die, keeps spinning because generations of bloodshed have left the worst of the extremists in charge. Someday, hopefully in my children's lifetime, anyway, some courageous men and women of peace will figure out how to make it stop. When they do, the world will give them the Nobel Peace Prize...and then retire it.
UPDATE: Hey, sorry. I was unaware that apparently it's the unofficial policy at Philly.com to usually not allow comments on Middle East stories. If you have a trenchent observation, email me at email@example.com and I'll try to add some comments to the post later, if I can.