The US has asked Israel to launch a probe into the high-profile death of a young Gaza girl who had pleaded for rescue and then was found killed, the State Department said Monday.
On Saturday, relatives found the body of 6-year-old Hind Rajab, who had begged Gaza rescuers to send help after being trapped by alleged Israeli military fire, along with the bodies of five of her family members and two ambulance workers who had gone to save her, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Monday the US 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.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society has accused Israel of deliberately targeting an ambulance it sent to rescue Rajab after she had spent hours on the phone with dispatchers begging for help with the sound of shooting echoing around. Emergency officials had spent days searching for Hind and the ambulance crew after contact was lost, before they were discovered dead Saturday.
The IDF said it has launched an initial examination into the matter but did not provide additional information.
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.
Family members found Rajab’s body along with those of her uncle and aunt and their three children still in a car near a roundabout in the Tel al-Hawa suburb of Gaza City, the official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.
Another of Hind’s uncles, Sameeh Hamadeh, said the car was peppered with bullet holes.
The girl’s plight, revealed in harrowing audio clips of her terrified conversation with rescue workers in late January, 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.”
What remains of the PRCS ambulance sent to rescue Hind Rajab 12 days ago. The ambulance was bombed by the Israeli occupation, resulting in the deaths of the crew, Yusuf Al-Zeino and Ahmed Al-Madhoun.#Gaza #NotATarget ❌#IHL #TheyKilled_Hind_YousefAndAhmed pic.twitter.com/TrCqRSvZYA
— PRCS (@PalestineRCS) February 10, 2024
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, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israel Defense Forces have since overrun most of the Palestinian enclave under an intense bombardment in a conflict that has killed some 28,000 people, according to Hamas-run Gaza health authorities. These numbers cannot be independently verified and are believed to include over 10,000 members of Hamas’s military wing 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 further humanitarian aid.