Six-year-old Hind Rajab pleaded to be rescued, after her family’s car came under fire in war-ravaged Gaza City, leaving her alone, frightened and injured, surrounded by the bodies of her dead relatives.
“I am so scared,” she had said in a desperate phone call to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. “Call someone to come get me, please.”
But after more than two weeks of frantic efforts to reach her, Hind’s body was recovered on Saturday, alongside relatives and two PRCS rescue workers sent to find her.
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The aid agency and the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip confirmed the grim discovery, and blamed Israeli forces.
The Palestinian group Hamas urged human rights groups and the international community to document what it called a “horrific crime”.
Hind’s highly publicised case comes as aid agencies warn that children and families are bearing the brunt of Israel’s war with Hamas.
Children are dying “at an alarming rate” in Gaza, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said.
Thousands have been killed and many more injured, with others at risk because of lack of food, water and medicine, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said.
Trapped in the family’s vehicle
Hind was last heard from after becoming trapped in the family’s vehicle with other relatives as they tried to flee Gaza City from an Israel advance.
“Hind and everyone else in the car is martyred,” the girl’s grandfather, Baha Hamada, told AFP on Saturday.
A number of family members found them when they went to Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa area looking for the car near a petrol station where it had last been spotted, he said.
“They were able to reach the area because Israeli forces withdrew early at dawn today,” added Hamada, one of the last people to speak to the girl on the telephone.
“She was killed by (Israeli) occupation forces with all those who were with her in the car outside the petrol station in Tel al-Hawa,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Palestine Red Crescent said that the Israeli military “deliberately targeted the ambulance upon its arrival at the scene” despite “prior coordination” allowing it through.
Earlier this week, family members had said the group found their way in the path of Israeli tanks and were fired on as they tried to flee.
Hind initially survived the shooting and managed to talk to her family by telephone and make an emergency call, which the PRCS published on February 3.
“For over three hours, Hind desperately pleaded for rescue from the occupation (Israeli) tanks surrounding her, enduring gunfire and the horror of being alone, trapped among the bodies of her relatives shot by the Israeli forces in front of her eyes,” it added.
Nothing more was then heard from the young girl, even as the ambulance was sent to get her, the organisation said. Her grandfather said she was injured in the back, hand and foot.
“She was frightened, terrified,” he told AFP, sobbing.
“Hind is my first grandchild, she’s a piece of my heart.”
There was no comment from the Israeli army when contacted by AFP.
The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’ unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel launched a massive military offensive in Gaza that the health ministry says has killed at least 27,947 people, mostly women and children.
UNICEF said on Wednesday that children in Gaza need “life-saving support” as the hostilities were having a “catastrophic impact”.
Half of the estimated 1.7 million people displaced in Gaza are children. “They do not have enough access to water, food, fuel and medicine,” the agency said on Wednesday.
“They homes have been destroyed; their families torn apart.”