Dylan Collins is an independent journalist and photographer based in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. On Wednesday afternoon, July 16, he was in Gaza City's port when four Palestinian children, ages 9 to 11, were killed by Israeli Navy artillery fire. This is what he saw.
The first explosion shook the windows. Israel’s war boats had been shelling Gaza City’s harbor for the last four or five nights, but none of the shells had ever reached this close. My colleagues and I brushed it off as another random shot and began to sit back down to work when we heard another, similarly sized boom. Upon first glance out the window, it looked like the shell had landed on nothing but a lonely shack on the narrow strip of land that juts out to help form the harbor. What we couldn’t see from our angle was the group of kids sprinting through the smoke away from the site.
A third boom; but this time something was off. The usually lifeless street, apart from the masses of foreign journalists who have arrived over the last few days to cover Gaza’s latest tragedy, began to snap to life.
People were running towards the smoke. We strapped on our vests and helmets and followed the crowd. As we arrived to the scene out of breath, an ambulance peeled out of the sandy parking lot and down the road. “Three martyrs,” a guy said to me, catching the inquisitive look on my face. “Little kids,” he added, shaking his head and casting his eyes toward the ground.
We followed a group of medics out to the ruins of the forlorn shack in search of the fourth corpse. “Here he is! Here he is!” someone shouted.
In the doorway of the blown-out shack lay a small torso. At first, I thought that was all that was left of the fourth boy, but as other medics arrived on scene, they quickly unearthed the rest of his little body. The scene was frenetic. Journalists and medics jockeyed for position to get a glimpse of Gaza’s latest victim, but the boy’s mangled remains were quickly placed on a stretcher and brought towards the crowd that had already gathered near the beginning of the beach.
As the ambulance drove off, an old woman wandered out towards the crowd, frantically screaming. “Is that him? Is that my son?” she asked. No one had an answer for her.