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Picture of the week: Last steps of the carefree innocents

This grainy image captures the moment as three young boys – all cousins – run for their lives as a beautiful beach is bombarded with aerial bombs.

Seconds before, a fourth cousin had been killed instantly by one of the bombs; seconds later, the three were also dead as another bomb exploded.

This photograph could just as easily have captured the carefree play of over-active, bored youngsters enjoying the late afternoon sun on any beach in the world. But it doesn't. It shows what happened last Wednesday when four young boys ignored warnings and left the safety of their homes to play along the Gaza shore.

The boys, naturally, as boisterous young lads are, were bored with being cooped up in their homes during a period of repeated aerial bombardments along the Gaza strip.

Grieving relatives later identified the boys as Mohammad (11 or 12), Ismail (9), Zakariya (10) and Ahed (7 or 9). Ahead was an only son with seven sisters. There was some confusion about their ages immediately after the incident.

The children are the latest victims of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the Gaza Strip. There have been many, many innocent victims on both sides – too many to be widely reported by the world's media.

There has been appalling loss of life and casualties of both Israelis and Palestinians, with children, in particular, caught up. The children, or indeed, any of the Gazans, were not the target for the Israeli military, who were aiming for Hamas rebels.

Their deaths were later described by official Israeli channels as "a tragic outcome".

A website – If Americans Knew – states that 131 Israeli children and 1,581 Palestinian children have been killed in the conflict since September 2000.

The United Nations reported earlier last week that 80% of the 133 Palestinians killed in the recent Israeli air strikes have been civilians – 33 of them children.

Over the 14 years since the conflict began, the numbers of deaths recorded by B'Tselem for the United Nations Office for the Co-ordinator of Humanitarian Affairs total up to 8,166 conflict-related deaths, of which 7,065 are Palestinian and 1,101 Israeli.

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