A 6-year-old Palestinian girl and the two rescuers who searched for her nearly two weeks ago were found dead Saturday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said, ending a desperate effort to discover their fate.
Two rescuers with the Red Crescent were dispatched by ambulance on the evening of January 29 to find Hind Rajab, who was believed to be trapped in a vehicle in Gaza City with six dead family members. The aid group said they were killed by Israeli fire.
A statement by the Red Crescent on Saturday accused Israeli forces of shelling the ambulance as it arrived “a few meters away from the vehicle containing the trapped child Heed” and killed the two rescuers inside. He said this happened “despite previous coordination” between the Red Crescent and the Israeli military.
Red Crescent shared a picture of him charred and almost unrecognizable ambulance on social media.
Neither the Red Crescent nor Hind’s family members who were in the area when the ambulance arrived on January 29 reported any fighting between Israeli forces and armed Palestinians there, although this could not be independently verified.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Red Crescent claims. The military said last week it was unaware of the incident.
A spokesman for the Red Crescent said the girl’s family discovered the bodies of their relatives and the ambulance crew. It was not immediately clear how Hind died.
The Red Cross had issued a series of desperate reports since the rescuers went missing, trying to draw attention to the dire situation.
The search was hampered by the continued presence of Israeli forces in the area, making it too dangerous to send more rescuers to the scene, according to the Red Crescent.
Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza have left more than 27,000 dead in Gaza over the past four months, according to health authorities in the territory. More than 12,000 of the dead are children, according to Gaza authorities.
The UN children’s agency Unicef said on Friday that more than 600,000 children and their families have been displaced in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.
Israel’s war in Gaza began after Hamas staged a cross-border attack into Israel, which Israeli authorities said killed around 1,200 people.
The two members of the ambulance team, Yousef Zeino and Ahmed al-Madhoun, were sent after a Red Crescent dispatcher spent three hours on the phone trying to comfort Hind as she was trapped in the car.
The Red Crescent said it had coordinated the ambulance’s movements with the Israeli army. Similar coordination is being done by other aid organizations operating in Gaza, including UN agencies.
Some aid groups reported convoys coming under fire.
The two rescuers confirmed that they reached the site of the vehicle in Gaza City’s Tal al-Hawa neighborhood at around 6pm on 29 January. The Red Crescent then lost contact with them and has not heard from them since.
Israeli army tanks and forces remained in the area, preventing the Red Crescent from sending more rescuers to the site, the aid group said.
After the tanks withdrew, Hid’s family went to the area and saw that she was dead in the vehicle and the Red Crescent ambulance was hit, with the two rescuers dead inside, said Nebal Farshah, a spokesman for the Red Crescent. He added that the family notified the Red Crescent and sent them photos.
“What to tell the mother of 6-year-old Hind? What can we say to the families of our missing colleagues Youssef Zeino and Ahmed al-Madhoon?” Red Crescent final Position on the case he said on Friday, before the team received confirmation that they were all dead.
“Every day for the past 11 days they have endured heart-wrenching uncertainty about the whereabouts of their loved ones. Their suffering makes us more determined to find out what happened. We need to know the truth.”
Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed to the report.