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Bodies of Gaza girl, ambulance team trapped under Israeli fire found after 12 days

Published Feb 10, 2024 20:37
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4/4 © Reuters. Palestinian girl Hind Rajab poses for a photograph, in this undated handout picture obtained by Reuters on February 10, 2024. Palestine Red Crescent Society/ Family Handout via REUTERS 2/4

(Reuters) -Relatives found the body on Saturday of a 6-year-old Palestinian girl who had begged Gaza rescuers to send help after being trapped by Israeli military fire, along with the bodies of five of her family members and two ambulance workers who had gone to save her.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) accused Israel of deliberately targeting the ambulance it sent to rescue Hind Rajab after she had spent hours on the phone to dispatchers begging for help with the sound of shooting echoing around.

"The occupation deliberately targeted the Red Crescent crew despite prior coordination to allow the ambulance to arrive at the site to rescue Hind," the Red Crescent said in a statement.

Israel's military did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the Red Crescent statement.

Family members found Hind's body along with those of her uncle and aunt and their three children still in a car near a roundabout in the Tel al-Hawa suburb of Gaza City, the official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

The PCRS released a photo of the ambulance, seen almost completely burned out. Al Jazeera footage of the scene appeared to show the ambulance only steps away from the car they said the family was in, a damaged black Kia Picanto riddled with bullet holes.

The plight of Hind, revealed in harrowing audio clips of her terrified conversation with rescue workers 12 days ago, underlined the impossible conditions for civilians in the face of Israel's four-month assault on Gaza.

The war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas fighters attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's military has since overrun most of the tiny Palestinian enclave under an intense bombardment in a conflict that has killed more than 28,000 people, according to Gaza health authorities.

During the course of the war, the Israeli military has said it takes steps to avoid civilian casualties. It has faced strong international criticism over the casualty toll.

The audio clips released by the Red Crescent earlier this month recorded a call to dispatchers that was first made by Hind's teenage cousin Layan Hamadeh, saying an Israeli tank was approaching before shots rang out and she screamed.

Believed to be the only survivor, Hind stayed on the line for three hours with dispatchers, who tried to soothe her as they prepared to send an ambulance.

"Come and get me," Hind was heard crying desperately in another audio recording. "I'm so scared, please come."

The PCRS said that after coordinating with the Israeli military through mediators and receiving a green light, it determined it was safe enough to send an ambulance with two crew, Youssef Zeino and Ahmed Al-Madhoon.

"In our last communication with the team, they said the occupation forces aimed a laser beam at them. We heard gunshots and then an explosion," said Red Crescent spokesperson in Ramallah, Nebal Farsakh.

Contact was then lost with both the ambulance team and Hind, leaving their families, colleagues and many around the world concerned about their fate.

"While we continue to look into exactly what happened, we want to reiterate that civilians must be protected - no child should ever be terrified for their life, surrounded by the bodies of their family members. That these were potentially Hind's last moments is devastating and unbearable," a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Reuters.

Bodies of Gaza girl, ambulance team trapped under Israeli fire found after 12 days
 

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