‘They are shooting at us.’ A fleeing Gaza family is killed along with the medics sent to find them

  • February 10, 2024

JERUSALEM — The sound of gunfire crackled over the phone as the teenage girl hid in the car and spoke. An Israeli tank was near the vehicle as she and her family were trying to heed Israel’s call to evacuate their home in Gaza.

Something had gone horribly wrong. Everyone in the vehicle was dead, the teen said. Everyone but her and her 5-year-old female cousin, Hind.

“They are shooting at us,” 15-year-old Layan told the Palestinian Red Crescent. “The tank is next to me.”

And then there was a burst of gunfire. She screamed and fell silent.

That began a desperate rescue attempt by medics with the Palestinian Red Crescent, one of many during the war in Gaza and one that ended Saturday with the discovery of their ambulance, blackened and destroyed.

The two medics were dead. The Palestinian Red Crescent accused Israeli forces of targeting the ambulance as it pulled up near the family’s vehicle. The organization said it had coordinated the journey with Israeli forces as in the past.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

The body of 5-year-old Hind was found, too, along with her family. Twelve days had passed since the phone call.

The world only sees pinhole views of the fighting in Gaza. Few people are let into the besieged territory, communications have been cut multiple times, and only a few journalists are working there.

Movement around the tiny enclave carries deadly risk as Israel presses its ground and air offensive. Earlier this week, Israel’s prime minister announced plans for a ground invasion of the crammed southern city of Rafah and said well over a million people would need to move.

The Health Ministry in Gaza says about two-thirds of more than 28,000 people killed since the start of the war have been children and women. The ministry does not distinguish in its count between civilians and combatants.

Israel says it strikes Hamas targets and holds Hamas responsible for civilian casualties because the militants fight from civilian areas.

The Hamada family was among more than 80% of Gaza’s population evacuating their homes. On Jan, 29, near a gas station in Gaza City, in an area designated by Israel as a combat zone, the family encountered a tank.

It was not clear what happened next, but the 5-year-old’s great-uncle Bashar Hamada, his wife and three of their children were killed.

Layan was wounded. She managed to call her father’s brother, Omar, to say everyone but her and Hind were dead. She urged him to send an ambulance. He connected her with the Palestinian Red Crescent office in Ramallah, which hoped to instruct her how to save herself and anyone else alive.

It was too late.

The Palestinian Red Crescent dispatched an ambulance after Layan went silent. Hours later, it lost contact with the medics, Yousef Zeino and Ahmed al-Madhoun, as they arrived at the scene.

For days, the organization shared the story of Hind, her family and the missing medics on social media — even posting audio of the phone call with Layan — in a plea for help.

On Saturday, after Israeli troops withdrew from the area and civilians told the Palestinian Red Crescent about the bodies, it shared a photo of the ambulance, crumpled and burned.

Palestinian Red Crescent spokesperson Raed al-Nims said Israel has killed 20 of its staffers and wounded about 30 others since the war began.


Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

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