(This narrative is pieced together using parts of articles from the BBC and the Guardian. If you have a soul, please help bring the war to an end by sharing this story and contacting your representatives – contact info at the end of the story. This issue is not political – it’s about children and human rights, not politics. Don’t turn your back.)
Hind [rhymes with wind] had set off from her home in Gaza City earlier that day with her uncle, aunt and five cousins.
It was Monday 29 January. That morning, the Israeli army had told people to evacuate areas in the west of the city and move south along the coast road.
Hind’s mother, Wissam, remembers there was intense shelling in their area. “We were terrified, and we wanted to escape,” she said. “We were fleeing from place to place, to avoid the air strikes.”
The family decided to head for the Ahli Hospital to the east of the city, hoping it would be a safer place to shelter.
Wissam and her older child began making their own way there on foot; Hind was given a place in her uncle’s car, a black Kia Piccanto.
“It was very cold and rainy,” Wissam explained. “I told Hind to go in the car because I didn’t want her to suffer in the rain.”
As Hind’s uncle drove…the car is thought to have unexpectedly come face to face with Israeli tanks. They pulled into the nearby petrol station for safety, and appear to have come under fire.
[NOTE: the word choice that BBC used here implies that the family just – oops – happened to see a random tank in front of them. And then, after they got out of the way, they just – oops – happened to be in the path of tank shells that were randomly flying through the air. It would have been more accurate to say “as the car full of civilians fleeing Gaza City – as they had been instructed – at least one Israeli tank, instead of letting them pass, came threateningly close and blocked them, then fired at the car.” But the BBC instead chose to keep the language passive: “unexpectedly come face to face with Israeli tanks…appear to have come under fire.]
Inside the vehicle, the family called relatives for help. One of them contacted the emergency headquarters of the Palestinian Red Crescent, 50 miles (80km) away in the occupied West Bank.
It was now around 2:30pm: operators at the Red Crescent call-center in Ramallah called the mobile phone number for Hind’s uncle, but his 15-year-old daughter, Layan, answered instead.
In the recorded phone call, Layan tells the Red Crescent staff that her parents and siblings have all been killed, and that there is a tank next to the car. “They are firing at us,” she says, before the conversation ends with the sound of gunfire and screaming.
(You can hear the last few seconds of the call here. Trigger Warning.)
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When the Red Crescent team called back, it is Hind who answers, her voice almost inaudible, drowned in fear.
It soon becomes clear that she is the only survivor in the car, and that she is still in the line of fire.
“Hide under the seats,” the team tell her. “Don’t let anyone see you.”
“The tank is next to me. It’s moving.”
Sitting in the emergency call-center of the Palestinian Red Crescent, operator Rana Faqih tried to keep her own voice calm.
“Is it very close?”
“Very, very,” the small voice replied. “Will you come and get me? I’m so scared.”
Rana stayed on the line with Hind for hours, as the Red Crescent appealed to the Israeli army to allow their ambulance to access the location.
Here is a bit of their conversation.
“She was shaking, sad, appealing for help,” Rana remembered. “She told us [her relatives] were dead. But then later she described them as ‘sleeping’. So we told her ‘let them sleep, we don’t want to bother them’.”
Hind kept asking, over and over again, for someone to come and get her.
In the meantime, the Red Crescent team had reached Hind’s mother, Wissam, and patched her phone line into the call.
Hind cried more when she heard her mother’s voice, Rana remembers.
“She pleaded with me not to hang up,” Wissam told the BBC. “I asked her where she was injured, then I distracted her by [reciting] the Quran with her, and we prayed together. She was repeating every word I said after me.”
It was after dark when the ambulance crew – Yousef and Ahmad – notified operators that they were nearing the location, and were about to be checked for entry by Israeli forces.
Rana said: “We contacted the ministry of health and they coordinated our safe access with the Israeli authorities. We were given the green light to move the ambulance.”
But she said the ambulance came under fire soon after it arrived at the location. “First [the paramedics] said the Israeli forces are putting laser lights on them … And then we heard a gunfire sound before we lost the connection. It was like a gunfire or explosion, we were not sure of what happened.”
Hind’s grandfather, Bahaa Hamada, told the BBC that the last thing Wissam heard was the sound of the car door being opened, and Hind telling her that she could see the ambulance in the distance.
Farsakh said the ambulance was later found meters away from Hind’s family’s car. “We have very clear red cross emblems on top of all of our ambulances,” she said. “This is horrible because when we have waited so many hours, leaving Hind appealing to us, crying, saying please come pick me up, and then, unfortunately, although we have waited all of these hours to guarantee our safe access, it wasn’t a safe access.”
It was the last operators heard from their colleagues – or from Hind. The line to both paramedics, and to the six-year-old girl they came to rescue, disconnected for good.
We [BBC] asked the Israeli army for details of its operations in the area that day, and about the disappearance of Hind and the ambulance sent to retrieve her. We asked again 24 hours later, and they said they were still checking.
The above incident happened on January 29. The story went viral, and the world (or at least, those who follow the news about Gaza) held its breath, waiting for an update, day after day. Day after day, there was no news. It was soul-crushing.
Finally, on Saturday Feb. 10, there was news. By that time, we knew what it would be. Hind was dead, along with her relatives and the two ambulance drivers who had tried to rescue her. It took the Israeli forces ten days to finish destroying Gaza City before they finally left. By that time, all of the bodies were decomposing.
There are many reasons why you need to know Hind’s story. Here are just a few that come to mind:
The story demonstrates the cruelty of the Israeli forces – making a little child wait like that for hours, then finally agreeing to let the ambulance through, only to kill everyone. They knew they were killing a child, someone who was no threat to them.
The story also exemplifies the disproportionate force the Israeli military regularly uses. The car is not just smashed, but also riddled with bullet holes; the ambulance is pulverized.
This is not the only story of a little Gazan girl and her family being annihilated by Israel – it’s just the only one that happened to be recorded. There are eleven thousand, five hundred more stories, at least.
Some of the children died instantly, some more slowly. Some died after having a limb amputated without anesthesia. Some of them died of hunger.
Every one of them had family who died with them, or has to go on without them. Every one of them has gone through an unspeakable terror.
Not a single one of them ever “voted for Hamas,” or “refused to reveal the location of a tunnel” – yet some Israeli leaders have declared, “it is an entire nation that is responsible,” and “all of Gaza should be erased” and “there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza” and “Now we all have one common goal—erasing the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.”
These children did not “lose their lives” or “pass away.” They didn’t even “die.” They were tried, found guilty, and killed by the “most moral army in the world.”
Our government has actively supported this genocide.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green, or Communist – this is a human rights tragedy that should break every one of our hearts. It’s not about politics – but it can be solved through politics.
If you have a soul, please contact the people in Washington DC who (allegedly) work for you and tell them, “
ENOUGH OF KILLING CHILDREN IN GAZA. CEASEFIRE NOW. NO MORE WEAPONS TO ISRAEL. STOP THE GENOCIDE. NOW – OR YOU’RE FIRED.”
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READ MORE ABOUT PALESTINE:
Posts about my Gazan family (in chronological order):
- Follow this refugee family’s quest for survival in Gaza
- The hardest decision our family in Gaza has ever made
- The unexpected one-word message coming out of Gaza today
- The new normal: eating during a famine in Gaza
- The truth about Gaza: “I swear, we don’t mind death”
- The reality of survival in Gaza, on Spiritual Brewpub
- 3 funerals and a wedding in Gaza
- “We’re surrounded. Israelis are everywhere. We are dying.”
- “We were surrounded by tanks. It’s a miracle we got out.”
Further reading on the Palestine-Israel issue:
- Does Israel really have “the most moral army in the world”?
- Western “civilization” exposed for its colossal ruthlessness
- To Biden, Palestinian genocide is already complete
- The lies we believe about Gazan Christians are killing them
- Can followers of the Prince of Peace support a group that uses violence?
- Why support for Palestinian resistance is the right response for Christians
- This thought experiment will make you smarter about Gaza and Israel
- A Palestinian Pastor’s powerful message to us: “it’s time to stop praying”
- Christians: Why do we skimp on compassion when it comes to Palestinians?
- Don’t compromise truth on Israel and Palestine
- What People Of Faith Need To Know About Gaza And Israel Right Now
FEATURED IMAGE: (rose) Kaishin | OneLushLife via Unsplash