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“They Were So Close”: Israel Kills Medics Trying to Save Dying 6-Year-Old Hind Rajab

StoryFebruary 16, 2024
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Image Credit: Palestine Red Crescent Society

We look at the case of Hind Rajab, the 6-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza whose case reverberated around the world when audio of her pleading for emergency workers to save her was published online. Her body was found two weeks later alongside those of her aunt, uncle and three cousins. The bodies of two Palestine Red Crescent paramedics, also missing since they had been dispatched to rescue her, were located in their ambulance just yards away. All had been killed by Israeli fire. “She was killed alone and scared, and our rescue teams were only meters away from her,” said Palestine Red Crescent Society spokesperson Nebal Farsakh, who adds that more than a dozen PRCS aid workers have been intentionally targeted during Israel’s assault on Gaza. Farsakh also discusses the kidnapping and assault of healthcare workers by Israeli forces laying siege upon Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We turn to Gaza, to a case that’s reverberated around the world. Two weeks ago, January 29th, 6-year-old Hind Rajab climbed into a car with her aunt, her uncle and her cousins in Gaza City as they prepared to flee to the southern part of Gaza. But as they were in the car, an Israeli tank approached them and opened fire. Hind’s 15-year-old cousin Layan called the Red Crescent for help. These were her last words, recorded on the call with a Red Crescent dispatcher.

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] Hello?

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Hello, dear?

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] They are shooting at us.

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Hello?

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] They are shooting at us. The tank is next to me.

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Are you hiding?

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] Yes, in the car. We’re next to the tank.

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Are you inside the car?

LAYAN HAMADEH: [translated] [screaming]

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Hello? Hello?

AMY GOODMAN: That was 15-year-old Layan’s last words, killed along with the rest of her family. The only one who remained alive was 6-year-old Hind. Wounded, she called the Red Crescent back, pleading with the dispatcher to be rescued.

HIND RAJAB: [translated] Come take me. You will come and take me?

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] Do you want me to come and take you?

HIND RAJAB: [translated] I’m so scared. Please come. Please call someone to come and take me.

RED CRESCENT DISPATCHER: [translated] OK, dear, I will come and take you.

AMY GOODMAN: After seeking approval from the Israeli military, two emergency workers with the Palestine Red Crescent, Yusuf Zeino and Ahmed al-Madhoun, went to try to rescue 6-year-old Hind. But dispatchers lost contact with the medics.

Nearly two weeks later, Israeli forces finally withdrew from the area, and on Saturday Hind’s surviving family ventured back to the neighborhood. They found Hind dead inside the car alongside the bodies of five of her family members. The car riddled with bullet holes. The bodies of the two emergency workers were also found in an ambulance nearby, appear to have been killed by Israeli fire just yards away from the car. This is Hind’s mother, Wissam Hamadah, after she learned of her daughter’s killing.

WISSAM HAMADAH: [translated] My heart is completely destroyed over my daughter. Two weeks! They killed them. Two weeks, they were in that car! I’ve told the world from day one, “Please go get Hind.” God is the only one sufficient for us. Everyone failed us. I will tell God on the day of judgment about my daughter. I swear I will never forgive you or any human involved or any human rights organization.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on this case, we’re joined now by Nebal Farsakh, spokesperson for the Palestine Red Crescent Society, joining us from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Nebal, thank you so much for joining us. Tell us everything you know about this case.

NEBAL FARSAKH: Good evening. Thanks for having me.

We at the Palestine Red Crescent were heartbroken and devastated again after learning the fate of our colleagues, Yusuf Zeino and Ahmed al-Madhoun. The ambulance was found bombed just meters away from the car where Hind was trapped.

The story began after we have received a call from the uncles of Hind and Layan, who live overseas, reporting that there’s two little girls are still survived after their family car was targeted by the Israeli tanks. He gave us a phone number. We called, and then Layan picked up the phone. And this is the call which you just previewed. Layan was killed while she was over the phone with our dispatch center.

And then we have called the number again, and Hind picked up the phone. Hind was supposed to turn into 6 years in May, and now she has lost her life. Over three hours, Hind was over the phone with our dispatch center. She was repeatedly seeking help, repeatedly appealing for our teams to come and pick her up.

It took us all of this time, over three hours, in order to coordinate safe access for our ambulances. And once the green light was given, the ambulance headed to the location. And upon its arrival, they have reported that there is a green laser on them, that the Israeli occupation force is pointing a laser on them. And then we have heard a sound of gunfire or a bombardment. It wasn’t that much clear. And the connection was lost.

For over 12 days, we were uncertain regarding the fate of our colleagues, Yusuf and Ahmed, and the little girl, Hind. We were thinking that they might be arrested. There was so many questions, like if they were succeeded to rescue Hind or not, because, basically, also they have confirmed that they can see the car of Hind and they were so close to Hind. I was just devastated to learn that Hind passed away alone. She was killed alone and scared, and our rescue teams were only meters away from her.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you explain the weapon found by the ambulance?

NEBAL FARSAKH: We’re not sure regarding the weapon found next to the ambulance. According to reports, it is an artillery shelling, U.S.-made, was found next to the ambulance, which was bombed by the Israeli occupation forces while they were trying to save 6-year-old Hind.

It’s just so much sad to see paramedics losing their life while they are trying to save people’s life. What was the fault of Yusuf and Ahmed? Their fault was they went in a rescue mission to save a 6-year-old girl. It was a coordinated mission, and the green light was given, and the Israeli occupation forces intentionally bombed the Palestine Red Crescent ambulance, which has clearly the Red Crescent emblem on top of the ambulance and from all the sides. There was no way or no option to be by mistake. It is an intentional targeting. Since the beginning of the war, we have lost 14 PRCS members. All of them were killed while they were on duty trying to save people’s life.

AMY GOODMAN: And what has the Israeli military explained to you, given that you got permission for your rescue workers to go rescue Hind, as the world heard her 6-year-old pleas for help?

NEBAL FARSAKH: Up to this moment, the Israeli military didn’t comment or reply at what happened. And even during the 12 days, we have tried repeatedly, even through the ICRC, to ask the Israeli occupation forces regarding what happened to Hind and the rescue team. And all the time they were mentioning they don’t have info regarding this incident. To turn out, after 12 days, they have bombed the ambulance, and still they don’t have info regarding the incident.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to another case. The Palestine Red Crescent has just posted new video online as evidence that their ambulance was shot at and its staff were, quote, “brutally assaulted” by Israeli forces. PRCS said the video was taken around a week ago and shows a Red Crescent paramedic with two black eyes sitting in an ambulance that is pockmarked by bullet holes. The organization says the attack happened as the ambulance crew was delivering oxygen cylinders to Al-Amal Hospital in Gaza. It also stated that Israel had claimed they had transferred the oxygen cylinders to Al-Amal Hospital. Can you explain what took place here in this video that we’re watching?

NEBAL FARSAKH: Yes. For over a week, Al-Amal Hospital was run out of oxygen. This has resulted to three of our patients died because of the lack of oxygen. After we managed to coordinate getting oxygen cylinders to the hospital via the ICRC, our ambulance had to bring the oxygen cylinders from Nasser Hospital and transport them to Al-Amal Hospital. On its way, the ambulance — Israeli occupation forces opened fire at the hospital, and they insult and beat our paramedic, who was trying to move and transport this oxygen cylinder, which is life-saving, for our patients.

This is not the first attack, because at that moment, also a week ago, the Israeli occupation forces raided Al-Amal Hospital. They have destroyed medical equipment, and they dehumanized the medical staff, patients and their companions. They arrested nine of the Palestine Red Crescent members from Al-Amal Hospital, including four doctors and a nurse. They have beaten the staff, denied them — not allowing them to drink water or even to go use the toilet, and they tie their hands on their backs. The situation is extremely dangerous inside Al-Amal Hospital. We are still extremely worried regarding the safety of our teams who were arrested from Al-Amal Hospital. Today, two of them were released, but seven of our PRCS members are still detained up to this moment who were arrested from inside Al-Amal Hospital. Al-Amal Hospital is under besiege and continuous attack for the 25th day. Today, Israeli occupation forces targeted the second floor of the hospital with artillery shelling. Gladly, it only damaged for two of the nursing rooms, but there was no injuries among the staff or the patients. But the situation remains very dangerous, with Israeli tanks are in front of the hospital, besieging the hospital, continuous gunfire and bombardment surrounding the hospital. No one is able to go in or go out of the hospital. There is no food, no water, extreme shortage of medicine and medical supplies inside the hospital. The situation is beyond dire.

AMY GOODMAN: Nebal, I asked you about Israeli response. I want to ask you about the U.S. government response and how important it is. This is a clip of State Department spokesperson Matt Miller at a news conference on Wednesday. He was questioned about the killing of 6-year-old Hind and her family by a reporter from The Intercept, Prem Thakker.

PREM THAKKER: It’s been over two weeks since Israeli forces attacked Hind Rajab’s family, killing her aunt, uncle and cousins, leaving her trapped alone in her vehicle. We heard her pleas to the Red Crescent Society. Two medics were sent, all to be blown up, allegedly, by Israeli forces. I wanted to ask about the status of the inquiry into this, just because it seems if the Israeli government, you know, which seemingly does have a pretty sophisticated operation, is prioritizing this — if they don’t already know which soldiers to interview, for instance, they have Red Crescent calls, timestamps, the location of the Red Crescent staff to, you know, question and rely on — plenty of material to figure out who exactly to inquire with and to figure out who to hold accountable. So I want to first ask about the status of this investigation.

MATTHEW MILLER: Sure. So, I think that question is appropriately directed to the government of Israel. I will say, on behalf of the United States, we have made clear to them that we want that incident to be investigated. They have told us they are investigating it. It’s our understanding that investigation is not yet complete. You should direct questions to them about where it stands. But we want to see it completed as soon as possible. And as I said from this podium several days ago, if accountability is appropriate, we want to be — we want to see accountability put in place.

AMY GOODMAN: Nebal Farsakh, we just have 30 seconds. That’s the State Department spokesperson. How important is pressure from the United States on Israel, as you talked about a U.S. weapon being found near the shelled ambulance?

NEBAL FARSAKH: It is extremely important. The life and the story of Hind should not be end in this way. We’re talking about 6-years-old girl. She was trapped in her family car for hours, after everyone was killed and targeted by Israeli occupation forces. During this, even two paramedics who went to rescue the 6-year-old girl was also targeted, and their ambulance was found. We need to see actions happen and to put Israel accountable for committing such crime against a 6-year-old girl and civilians who were trapped in their car, along with targeting our ambulance.

AMY GOODMAN: Nebal Farsakh, we thank you so much for joining us, spokesperson for Palestine Red Crescent.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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