An Israeli naval ship fired multiple artillery shells at children on a beach in Gaza City Wednesday, killing four children between the ages of 9 and 11, and wounding a number of other children.Reporters for AFP and the Guardian witnessed the attack, which took place near a hotel where the few foreign journalists in Gaza are staying.

The children were identified as Ahed Atef Bakir, 10, Zakariya Ahed Bakir, 10, Mohammad Ramiz Bakir, 11, and Ismail Mahmoud Bakir, 9. Neighbors report that they were brothers and cousins, helping their father/uncle with a fishing boat.

Peter Beaumont of the Guardian witnessed the shelling of the children, and said that after the first shell struck, and survivors were rushing for cover, Israeli naval forces fired a second shell at the survivors.

He described the attack as follows: “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.

“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 children.’

The Israeli military said it would investigate the attack. But previous investigations by the Israeli military of its own soldiers’ conduct have never found them to be in violation of Israeli or international law, despite flagrant evidence of violations.