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A eulogy of innocence

February 29, 2024 at 9:00 am

A woman carries a picture of 6 year old Hind Rajab in memory of her death as people gathered at a rally near the Israeli embassy in London, United Kingdom, after hundreds of thousands marched demanding a ceasefire and an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza on 17th February 2024 [Kristian Buus/In Pictures via Getty Images]

The little girl begged the civil defence phone operator to come and rescue her. “Come take me, I am afraid,” pleaded the six-year-old child. The helpless phone operator tried to calm her down. “I am coming to take you,” she said, before leading her in reading Surah Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Holy Qur’an, which is often read when children are afraid. The operator praised the child for reading from memory without any mistake.

Then she explained that an “uncle” from the Red Crescent is going to “take you” and again she reassured the terrified little girl by telling her, “I am coming to take you.”

Nobody was able to get to Hind for six or seven hours, and her fate was unknown for the next 12 days. When the rescuers did get to where Hind Rajab was they were too late. The murder was done and the butchers had left the area after killing the child and her relatives. The horror was compounded by the killing of the two-man ambulance team sent to rescue Hind.

How could a little girl, who liked to wear pink outfits like cartoon princesses, survive being trapped in a small car while an Israeli tank just metres away sprayed the vehicle with bullets? That tank was no doubt filled with soldiers without an ounce of humanity between them as they fed their inflated egos by taking selfies with dead bodies. They reminded us of the psychopathic serial killers seen in horror films as they derived sick pleasure from the sight of charred human remains.

This was not a one-off incident, but part of an ongoing strategy of the so-called Israel Defence Forces (IDF) since 7 October.

IDF soldiers amuse themselves by taking selfies with dead bodies, destroyed buildings and even women’s lingerie after killing and destroying everyone and everything in their way. Murder has become part of the IDF’s rules of engagement. “I have released all the restraints [on the army],” said Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant.

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The distance between the tank and the small black Kia that Hind was in was just a few metres. It is possible that the soldiers in the tank could hear every word that the child managed to say over the phone while appealing for help. The butchers must have heard her cries as she lay alone inside the small car surrounded by the bodies of her relatives. Yet they killed her, just as they had killed everyone else.

Her mother, Wissam, was already in Rafah after being displaced. She was waiting for Hind to join her, clinging to the false hope that her little angel was injured but would survive once she reached hospital. Hind did make it to the hospital, but she was dead, another statistic in the growing death toll of those killed by the self-declared “most moral army in the world”, the IDF.

Wissam showed the media Hind’s school backpack. Inside were a pencil and a pink book; the bag itself was pink, Hind’s favourite colour. The child will never see what her loving mother bought her and she will never go to school again.

Despite the fact that more than 12,000 children have been killed by Israeli soldiers so far, Hind’s picture sticks in my mind. Something is so special about her that she stands out.

I was, and still am, gripped by the tragedy that overcame her. I first heard about it on live TV on 29 January. Her voice during that final phone call haunts me. When I pass by a school, I look at the children as if I expect to see her. The other day I went into a toy shop expecting to find her there choosing a new toy. On another occasion I thought I saw her with other children in the playground near my home. If I wake up at night I think she woke me up to ask for a glass of water or something.

This could be because my only daughter is also called Hind. Or it could be because, deep down, I find it very painful to have heard about Hind Rajab. Maybe, unconsciously, I am seeking forgiveness for my failure to do more to save the children in Gaza.

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I am sorry Hind. This is all I could do: write and publish the story of you and thousands of innocents like you for the world to read and understand. Perhaps I hope that some cowardly decision-maker in Washington, London or Paris will appreciate what pain is and do something about it; what killing children looks and feels like, and then say that the killing must stop immediately.

As far as I am concerned, and Hind’s mother is concerned, and every human being whose soul is still intact is concerned, the West led by the United States is an active participant in the ongoing massacres in Gaza; the genocide of the Palestinians. Washington in particular is complicit in every single war crime and crime against humanity committed by IDF soldiers every day. Hind was murdered by them, but these war criminals only pulled the trigger acting on the orders of the Israeli war cabinet using weapons, money and political support provided by Washington and other Western governments.

If the far-right government in Israel is to be held accountable — and it should be — then so should the governments in Washington, London and elsewhere, with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak heading a long line of those in the dock facing criminal charges. The list of war crimes is long, but it is not too late for them to tell Benjamin Netanyahu that enough is enough; stop the killing now. They all have the power to end the nightmare in Gaza and help set Palestine free of Israel’s brutal military occupation.

Sadly, though, more little boys and girls like Hind Rajab look set to die in the dark neighbourhoods of Gaza while the IDF receives more state-of-the-art weapons to destroy the Palestinian enclave. Rest in peace Hind, safe in the knowledge that there will be a day of freedom, peace and victory; a day when schools will open again and Palestine will be free at last.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.