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Times Of Israel
Times Of Israel
24 Feb 2024

NextImg:IDF says probe indicates no troops were in area where 6-year-old Gazan girl was killed

Following reports that a six-year-old Palestinian girl was killed by Israeli fire in Gaza City in late January, along with five of her family members and two medics who had gone to save them, the IDF said Saturday its initial investigation suggested no troops were in the area at the time of the incident.

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

Family members found Hind’s body along with those of her uncle and aunt and their three children inside a car near a roundabout in the Tel al-Hawa suburb of Gaza City. Another of Hind’s uncles, Sameeh Hamadeh, said the car was peppered with bullet holes.

In response to a query on the matter, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit told The Times of Israel that “from a preliminary investigation that was conducted, it appears that IDF troops were not present near the vehicle or within firing range of the described vehicle in which the girl was found.

“Also, given the lack of forces in the area, there was no need for individual coordination of the movement of the ambulance or another vehicle to pick up the girl,” the IDF said.

“Every day, dozens of ambulances move without individual coordination throughout the Strip, and as long as there are no forces in the area, the movement does not require coordination,” it added.

The IDF said the case had been handed over to the General Staff Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism, an independent military body responsible for investigating unusual incidents amid the war.

The US had asked Israel to launch a probe into the incident.

IDF troops from the Nahal Brigade operate south of Gaza City, February 20, 2024 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington was “devastated” by the reports the youngster had been killed in an Israeli strike amid the ongoing war with terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“We have asked the Israeli authorities to investigate this incident on an urgent basis. We understand that they are doing so, and we expect to see those results in a timely fashion. They should include accountability measures as appropriate,” Miller said at a press briefing on February 12.

Hind’s mother, Wissam Hamada, blamed the girl’s death on “unbelievers” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden “and all those who conspired against Gaza and its people.”

“I will question before God on Judgment Day those who heard my daughter’s cries for help and did not save her,” she told AFP.

The girl’s plight, revealed in harrowing audio clips of her terrified conversation with rescue workers, underlined the impossible conditions for civilians in the face of Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The audio clips released by the Red Crescent earlier this month recorded a call to dispatchers 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, Rajab 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,” she was heard crying desperately in another audio recording. “I’m so scared, please come.”

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After deciding it was safe to approach the area, the dispatchers sent an ambulance with two crew members, Youssef Zeino and Ahmed Al-Madhoon.

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

The war began on October 7 when thousands of Hamas terrorists attacked southern Israel under a barrage of rockets fired at population centers all over the country, brutally killing 1,200 people amid cases of torture and rape and seizing 253 hostages. Israel swiftly declared war on Hamas, vowing to topple the terror group’s regime in Gaza and free the hostages.

Kites are flown over Rafah as smoke billows following Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 20, 2024. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces has since overrun most of the Palestinian enclave under an intense bombardment in a conflict that has killed over 29,000 people, according to Hamas-run Gaza health authorities. These numbers cannot be independently verified and are believed to include over 12,000 terror operatives who were killed in battle as well as Gazans who were killed by terror groups’ misfired rockets.

During the course of the war, the Israeli military has maintained it makes many efforts to avoid civilian casualties, but that these are unavoidable as it fights against terrorists who are embedded within the civilian population and use civilians as human shields.

Israel has nevertheless faced mounting international criticism over the toll of dead and injured.

While defending Israel’s right to attack Hamas, US President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly pleaded with Israel to do more to reduce the toll on civilians and to allow in further humanitarian aid.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.