4 Palestinian Children Killed in Israeli Air Strike Right in Front of Reporters

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Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Following yesterday's failed cease-fire, an Israeli naval gunboat has reportedly struck seven children near the port in Gaza, killing at least four. One remains in critical condition. Moments earlier, the kids had been playing soccer with a reporter from NBC, who witnessed the attack firsthand. Dozens of other journalists were nearby.

"The kids were playing football on the beach. They were all ... under the age of 15," a witness confirmed to Reuters. "It looked as if the shells were chasing them."

NBC reports, "They were carried from the scene of the attack, on the beachfront, through the lobby of a hotel in front of Western journalists."

William Booth, a Washington Post reporter, also has a first-person account:

We could smell the charge. I wondered: Did Hamas just fire a rocket? But it was the sound of an incoming missile. We saw a small fisherman’s shack on the quay, churning with gray smoke.

Then we saw a gang of kids running from the shack, down the breakwater and onto the sand, hurtling toward Al Deira. A couple of waiters, the cook and a few journalists starting waving at them. Run here! Then a second missile exploded on the beach right behind them.

The staff were yelling, “They’re hurt!”

A half-dozen kids made it to hotel. The oldest was a teenager, who reached safety and fainted. He was scooped up and carried away to a taxi by the big friendly bear of a bellman, room cleaner and night watchman named Mahmoud Abu Zbaidah.

The Guardian's Peter Beaumont described the scene here.

And, if you can stomach it, here's video of reporters photographing an injured, crying child (via Mashable):

The Israeli military has said it provides evacuation warnings for targeted areas to minimize civilian deaths, but according to NBC foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, "They don't take those warnings seriously" for two reasons: "It is not clear where they're supposed to evacuate to," he said. "The entire Gaza Strip has been struck." Additionally, Hamas tells Palestinians that the warnings are merely "psychological warfare."

Recent clashes, the worst in years, have killed more than 200 Palestinians — the United Nations estimates about 80 percent have been civilians — and one Israeli.