A 6-year-old in Gaza City was calling to be rescued. Did anyone find her? https://t.co/2FqcBPnT8I
— Joe Catron (@jncatron) February 2, 2024
The Hamada family was trying to get to safety. An order from the Israeli military had gone out earlier on Monday, ordering them to evacuate their neighborhood in Gaza City. Bashar, 44, and his wife Anam, 43, piled their children and their young niece, Hind, into the car.
They would never reach their destination.
The full picture of the tragedy that befell the family remains incomplete. Some details could not be confirmed. What is beyond dispute is that their car came under fire; the parents and most of the children were killed; a 6-year-old girl begged for hours to be rescued; paramedics were dispatched; then communications were lost.
The Washington Post reconstructed the events of that day by interviewing three family members, five members of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and reviewing audio of phone conversations between dispatchers and children in the car. The family’s story is emblematic of the ongoing dangers faced by civilians in northern Gaza — even as Israel says it is winding down its military mission there — and the depth of their isolation from the outside world.
Asked for comment multiple times, the Israel Defense Forces said, “We are unfamiliar with the incident described.” The Post provided specific coordinates and additional details to the IDF on Tuesday morning and has not received a reply.
In the operations room of the PRCS in Ramallah, the landline was ringing. It was 2:28 p.m. Omar al-Qam, the lone dispatcher on duty that day, picked up.
From 2,000 miles away, in Frankfurt, Germany came the steady voice of Mohammed Salem Hamada: “My family members are trapped in Gaza City,” he told Omar. “They were driving a black Kia Picanto and the car was targeted. Some of the people were killed inside.”
Mohammed gave Omar the phone number for his 15-year-old niece, Layan, who had called her uncle in southern Gaza to sound the alarm. The uncle, struggling with patchy cell service, called his cousin in Germany, hoping he could find help.
The uncle relayed what Layan had told him: The Israeli army had opened fire on the family’s car. Her parents and all four of her siblings were dead — Sana, 13, Raghad, 12, Mohammed, 11 and 4-year-old Sarah.
Layan told her uncle she was bleeding. And that her cousin Hind, 6, was the only other survivor.
Omar, in Ramallah, called Layan. She sounded terrified.
“They are firing at us,” she screamed into the phone. “The tank is next to me.”
“Are you hiding?” he asked.
Then came a burst of fire. Layan screamed. The line went dead.
In shock, Omar said he went to find his colleague, Rana Faqih, in another room. He was trembling, she recalled.
Rana said she walked him back to his chair in the dispatch room and stood next to him as he dialed again.
It was Hind who answered this time.
“Are you in the car now?” he asked her.
“Yes,” came the small voice on the other end.
Rana took the phone, telling the 6-year-old she would stay on the phone until help arrived.
Hind’s voice was so quiet, it was impossible to make out her reply.
“Who are you with?” Rana asked.
“With my family,” Hind told her.
Rana asked if she had tried to wake up her family. Hind responded: “I’m telling you they’re dead.” [Continue reading…]