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6-year-old Gaza girl was found dead days after pleading for rescue from Israeli fire

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

And a warning - this next story includes the voice of a child in a life-threatening situation, as well as descriptions of the violence of war. It may be disturbing to some of our listeners.

A 6-year-old Palestinian girl called emergency services in Gaza City and pleaded, I'm so scared. Please come take me. NPR's Aya Batrawy has this report on what happened next, and it includes graphic descriptions of war.

AYA BATRAWY, BYLINE: The Palestinian Red Crescent's emergency hotline in the West Bank received a call from a man in Germany two weeks ago. He'd received word that his niece was trapped in a car in Gaza. He needed the emergency operator to call her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

LAYAN HAMADEH: (Non-English language spoken).

BATRAWY: Fifteen-year-old Layan Hamadeh's parents and siblings had piled into the family's car to flee Gaza City. Fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas had intensified. Hamadeh tells the emergency operator she can see an Israeli tank, and their car has been shot at. Then, a barrage of gunfire rings out. Hamadeh's killed in the car, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, which posted audio online of the call. So are her parents and four siblings. But there's one survivor, Hamadeh's younger cousin Hind Rajab.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HIND RAJAB: (Non-English language spoken).

BATRAWY: "Come get me. Come," the 6-year-old girl tells the emergency dispatcher, who's in the Red Crescent's headquarters in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HIND: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

BATRAWY: The girl says she's scared and pleads for help. The Red Crescent's emergency operators stay on the line with Rajab for more than three hours. As night falls, she grows hungry and tired. A psychological support expert comes on the line to try and keep Rajab calm.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Non-English language spoken).

BATRAWY: Meanwhile, an ambulance in Gaza City is dispatched to rescue her. The Red Crescent says its route was coordinated with the Israelis, that they were, quote, "given the green light to rescue Rajab." But the Red Crescent lost contact with the ambulance crew and Rajab that night. Hours turned into days.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: It has been 48 hours, and the Palestine Red Crescent is still waiting to hear from our colleague Ahmed and Yousef. Their fate is still unknown.

BATRAWY: The Red Crescent posted videos like this online demanding answers. It would take 12 days for them to get answers. On Saturday, Israeli tanks withdrew from the Gaza City neighborhood, where the ambulance crew was sent to rescue Rajab. This is what Palestinians found.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Non-English language spoken).

BATRAWY: The burnt out shell of an ambulance. The charred remains of its two crew members inside. The car they were sent to find is within sight, riddled with bullets.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Non-English language spoken).

BATRAWY: The Red Crescent says Rajab was killed waiting to be rescued. The Israeli military told NPR it's investigating the incident.

Aya Batrawy, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Aya Batrawy
Aya Batraway is an NPR International Correspondent based in Dubai. She joined in 2022 from the Associated Press, where she was an editor and reporter for over 11 years.

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