Netanyahu vows ‘safe passage’ for Rafah civilians; CIA chief to join new hostage talks in Egypt

‘They killed her twice,’ grieving mother of Hind Rajab tells NBC News in Gaza

TEL AVIV — The mother of Hind Rajab, the little girl who was found killed in Gaza City yesterday nearly two weeks after she was last heard pleading with emergency dispatchers to rescue her, has described her devastation in an interview with NBC News.

“This is the most difficult feeling, to lose your daughter,” Wissam Hamadah told NBC News’ crew on the ground in Gaza yesterday. “I feel bad for not being able to save Hind. This occupation did not have mercy on her.”

Hamadah said she had held onto hope that her daughter would be found alive — but after Hind’s remains were recovered yesterday it felt like “they killed her twice,” she said. “And killed the paramedics that were trying to save her.”

Holding up some of Hind’s belongings, Hamadah said her daughter’s only weapons were “a notebook and a pencil,” along with a paper crown she wore the day before the bombing. “They killed her because she writes, because she is smart. A notebook, pencil and crown.”

Hamas condemned the incident as a “horrific crime.” The IDF has not responded to a request from NBC News for comment.

Hind was fleeing heavy fighting in Gaza City in a vehicle with her aunt, uncle and four cousins, when a bombing was believed to have killed some of her family members. Her 15-year-old cousin, Layan, called first responders for help, telling an operator that an Israeli tank appeared to be closing in before a burst of gunfire rang out and the line went dead.

When dispatchers called back, it was Hind who answered, saying Layan had been killed, along with the rest of her relatives, as she pleaded for help.

Palestinian girl Hind who remains trapped amid desperate efforts to recover her safely in Gaza
“Come take me. Please, will you come?” Hind had said on an emergency call with a dispatcher at the Palestine Red Crescent Society.via PRCS

Two first responders were dispatched to the scene, but their remains were also found yesterday in a heavily damaged ambulance just meters away from the car where Hind’s body was found. The vehicle was also badly damaged, with its exterior riddled with bullet holes.

Netanyahu: Telling Israel not to assault Rafah is ‘basically saying lose the war’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the Israeli military will proceed with a ground invasion of Rafah, despite drastic warnings from allies and international aid organizations.

“We’re going to do it, we’re going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, which is the last bastion, but we’re going to do it,” he told ABC News in an interview set to air later this morning.

Responding to the mounting global alarm for the more than 1 million Palestinians sheltering in the southern Gaza city, Netanyahu dismissed the idea that Israel would not launch a ground assault. “Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying lose the war. Keep Hamas there,” he said.

Asked about U.S. warnings that entering without a plan to avoid civilian harm risked “disaster,” Netanyahu said that on this “I agree with the Americans.”

“We’re going to do it while providing safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave,” he said, though he did not explain how this might be achieved beyond saying that his military was “working out a detailed plan.”

Children wait for food in Rafah

Food aid to families displaced to Southern Gaza amid Israeli attacks
Belal Khaled / Anadolu via Getty Images
Food aid to families displaced to Southern Gaza amid Israeli attacks
Belal Khaled / Anadolu via Getty Images

Children, holding empty pots, wait in line to receive food prepared by volunteers for Palestinian families in Rafah yesterday.

CIA chief to travel to Egypt for hostage talks

CIA Director Bill Burns is going to Egypt on Tuesday to continue hostage negotiations, a senior administration official confirmed to NBC News.

The trip was first reported by Axios.

Burns has been negotiating with officials from Egypt and Qatar, who are representing Hamas, as well as with Israeli intelligence officials from Mossad, Shin Bet and the IDF on behalf of Israel’s government.

The U.S. official said Burns will be working on the next steps for achieving the release of the estimated 136 hostages still being held in Gaza.

Separately, other Arab leaders have told the U.S. and Israel time is running out to reach an agreement if they want to free the remaining hostages while they are still alive.

Last week, Hamas delivered a counteroffer to the original proposal that Burns and other negotiators had agreed upon in Paris last month.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday that while some of the elements of the Hamas counteroffer were “nonstarters,” the Hamas response also contained elements that the U.S. could work with.

Other U.S. officials, and Qatari diplomats, described the Hamas response as “positive.” But shortly after Blinken spoke to reporters, Netanyahu held his own news conference and denounced the Hamas proposal as “delusional.”

The Israeli leader also repeated his pledge to keep fighting until Hamas is defeated, a goal U.S. officials do not believe is achievable without risking the lives of the hostages and killing a high number of Palestinian civilians. 

On Thursday night, President Joe Biden publicly criticized Israel’s rejection of the proposal as “over the top.”

Crowds and destruction in Rafah

People gather around the carcass of a Palestinian police vehicle that was destroyed yesterday as Israel steps up its bombardment of Rafah.

SAID KHATIB / AFP – Getty Images
SAID KHATIB / AFP – Getty Images

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