Her parents were told to seek safety in Rafah. A piece of shrapnel killed the 7-year-old in her sleep.

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza after Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 attack, which left around 1,200 people dead, while some 240 people were taken hostage, according to Israeli officials. The attack sparked a military response from the IDF, with a level of violence that is unprecedented even in this decadeslong conflict.

Israel has faced mounting scrutiny and backlash over its sweeping offensive in Gaza, with the Biden administration telling the Israeli government it wants it to end its ground offensive in the enclave and move to a more targeted phase of its war against Hamas, two U.S. officials familiar with the discussions told NBC News.

“I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives. Not stop going after Hamas — but be more careful,” President Joe Biden said at an event Thursday.

The IDF declined to provide a direct statement on the incident, but said: “In response to Hamas’ barbaric attacks, the IDF is operating to dismantle Hamas military and administrative capabilities.”

“In stark contrast to Hamas’ intentional attacks on Israeli men, women and children, the IDF follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm,” it said.

Palestinian Girl Shrapnel
A man points to where a piece of shrapnel from a nearby strike tore a hole through the tent and hit Sidal in the head, killing her as she slept. Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

At the camp, her family mourns by grasping at the last traces of her brief life. The hot pink hoodie Sidal was wearing the day before she died is still hanging on the line. Najwa clutches it, remembering her daughter who had just been asking if her mom could get her doll, left behind at their home in Khan Younis.

“Every time I remember her, I hold her stuff and cry,” Najwa said.

Just before her death, Najwa said she had been running and playing around the tents with her cousins. “Everyone loves her. Her uncles, her aunts. All our relatives adore her,” she said.

One of Sidal’s brothers, who wept as his parents prayed for his sister, kissed a photo of her, smiling and alive.

Her father recalls some of her last words: “Dad, I want to sleep beside you.” He tried to protect her by going to Rafah, tried to keep her close. And that’s where death came for her, right beside him.

“What is their guilt?” Hani asked about his child, and the others enduring the mounting indignities of the war. “We can’t find food, water or electricity, and this happened.”

Around 90% of the 2.2 million people in Gaza have been displaced by the war, with an estimated half of the population facing starvation amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis, according to United Nations officials, who have described the conditions in Gaza as “hell on earth.”

There’s little else that Najwa and Hani can do but hope that their daughter is in a better place.

“May God have mercy upon her,” Hani said. “May God take her to paradise.”


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