In Rafah, child Tala’s survival was a miracle. Her dying 18 days later was a nightmare.



TEL AVIV — It was a second of elation amid tragedy in December as child Tala Rouqa was pulled from the rubble, unconscious however miraculously alive, after an airstrike crushed the house in Rafah the place she and her household had hoped to search out refuge from the conflict.

“She’s alive!” rescuers cheered, as a neighbor bundled her in his arms and raced her to the close by hospital, in a scene captured by NBC Information’ crew on the bottom.

Her mom’s limp hand might be seen close by within the rubble — maybe reaching out in direction of, maybe slipping from, her daughter. The mom was killed within the strike, together with not less than 20 individuals, in keeping with Palestinian well being officers.

Tala’s sister Toleen, her brother, Youssef, her grandmother and several other different family members have been amongst these killed.

For Tala’s father, Ahmad Rouqa, who was critically injured, however survived the Dec. 28 assault, her rescue was a “glimmer of hope.”

However greater than two weeks later, within the early hours of Jan. 15, Tala died too, plunging the grieving father into a brand new depth of despair.

The precise reason for Tala’s dying isn’t clear, however she’s believed to have succumbed to her accidents, for which she was nonetheless receiving therapy.

“I hoped that she would stay with me on this life, as a reminiscence of her mom and her siblings, her aunts and her uncles,” Rouqa mentioned. “However reward Allah, she died. She is with God; it’s higher than something.”

Israel’s army beforehand didn’t say what it was concentrating on within the strike that killed the Rouqa household, however has mentioned its bombing marketing campaign is geared toward dismantling Hamas’ army talents and rescuing hostages. The Israel Protection Forces didn’t reply to a request for additional remark from NBC Information.

Tala, who had suffered deep burn wounds and a damaged leg, died simply days earlier than her first birthday, her father mentioned. She was meant to bear surgical procedure for accidents she sustained within the strike, however docs had urged her household to attend till she was not less than a yr outdated for her personal security throughout the operation.

“To this second, I’m shocked,” Rouqa mentioned. “How did she die? I assumed she received higher, and there have been therapies,” however, he mentioned, “she suffered problems, and he or she died.”

Rouqa mentioned his household had first fled from Gaza Metropolis after Israel launched its floor offensive within the enclave’s north, ordering Palestinians to evacuate the world and transfer south, the place they have been promised relative security.

However when the bombs additionally began to drop on Khan Younis, the household fled additional south to Rafah, close to the Egyptian border, the place they have been assured as soon as once more by Israeli forces that they’d be secure.

“It is not secure for anybody. There may be nowhere secure wherever right here in Rafah,” Rouqa mentioned in a earlier interview. “It is a large deceive say that it is secure. It is a large lie, what the Israelis are saying.”

Rouqa described how earlier than the conflict, he and his household have been decided to benefit from life.

“We had no relationship with politics. Nothing. We cherished life,” he mentioned. “Each week, we have been going out as a household to the seashore, a picnic.”

And his kids, he mentioned, “have been my hope on this life. I am like anybody else: I needed to have my circle of relatives … I needed somebody to say baba,” Arabic for dad, “to me.”

“This conflict modified our lives,” he mentioned. “Now, we misplaced every part … they’re slaughtering us in entrance of the world.”

Greater than 100 days have handed since Israel launched its offensive on Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault, which noticed greater than 1,000 individuals killed and a few 260 individuals taken hostage, in keeping with Israeli officers. In that point, greater than 24,900 individuals have been killed in Gaza, with over 62,000 others injured whereas 1000’s extra are lacking and presumed useless, in keeping with Palestinian authorities.

Greater than 85% of Gaza’s inhabitants of roughly 2.2 million individuals have been displaced by the conflict as households try to flee Israel’s bombardment, leaving them in a shrinking sliver of the Strip, grappling with a worsening humanitarian disaster the place entry to meals, water, drugs and different necessities is scarce.

Rouqa mentioned he hopes the violence in Gaza will quickly come to an finish.

“I’ve misplaced essentially the most treasured factor I’ve. I don’t need others to lose their kids, to lose themselves, as a result of conflict is destruction,” Rouqa mentioned. “We’re the victims in each means. The individuals, we’re the victims.”

In gutwrenching video captured by NBC Information’ crew on the bottom, the grieving dad might be seen tearing open the shroud that enveloped Tala’s lifeless physique as she was laid in her grave.

Cupping her pale face in his palms, he wails as others attempt to console her. “She’s together with her mother,” one individual says.

“I can not cease serious about her. I miss her,” Rouqa later informed NBC Information. “I miss her siblings. I miss her mother.”

Holding up his telephone to indicate a photograph of Tala’s smiling face, Rouqa mentioned it was the final image taken of her earlier than she died. Now, he mentioned, “she’s in God’s palms.”

“She gave me hope on this life,” he mentioned. “Her dying killed every part for me.”



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