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A baby girl born orphaned and premature after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza has died

A Palestinian baby girl, saved from the womb of her mother Sabreen Al-Sakani, who was killed in an Israeli strike along with her husband Shukri Jouda and her daughter Malak, lies in an incubator at the Emirati hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, April 21.
Mohammed Salem
/
Reuters
A Palestinian baby girl, saved from the womb of her mother Sabreen Al-Sakani, who was killed in an Israeli strike along with her husband Shukri Jouda and her daughter Malak, lies in an incubator at the Emirati hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, April 21.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — There had been a glimmer of hope in Rafah this past weekend, when medics were able to rescue a baby girl from her mother's womb after airstrikes Saturday night killed her entire family.

Her mother was dead by the time she was brought to the field hospital, but doctors were able to operate on her outside its main structure quickly, performing an emergency cesarean section to pull her baby out.

The mother, Sabreen al-Sakani, had been 30 weeks pregnant. The baby, two months premature, was given an oxygen mask that engulfed her small face, and was transported to a larger hospital that has incubators.

A medic holds a newborn girl after she was delivered via cesarean section at a hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in this still image taken from a video recorded April 20.
Reuters TV / via REUTERS
/
via REUTERS
A medic holds a newborn girl after she was delivered via cesarean section at a hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in this still image taken from a video recorded April 20.

The sole survivor of her family

The baby's mother, her father Shukri Jouda, and toddler sister Malak — Arabic for angel — were also killed in the Israeli airstrike that hit the family's home in Rafah, according to information from the hospital morgue and extended family.

The day after the strike that killed the family, the baby's uncle, Rami al-Sheikh, told cameras he was ready to care for her. "I'll embrace and look after her," he was quoted as saying in a Sky News report.

But Dr. Mohammed Salama, who heads the neonatal department at the Emirati hospital in Rafah, where the infant was being cared for, told NPR she died Thursday, despite his team's best efforts to save her.

The baby's uncle told The Associated Press that the girl, who was named Sabreen after her mother, was buried Thursday next to her father. She was 5 days old.

Increased airstrikes on Rafah kill mostly women and children

The newborn's death comes during an uptick in Israeli airstrikes on Rafah, where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians have sought shelter in the nearly seven-month-long war that erupted Oct. 7 with a Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities. More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war since then, according to Gaza health officials.

Israel's military says it is planning an assault on Rafah to go after Hamas, but it has not said when that might happen. The Biden administration says it is concerned about the toll an offensive in Rafah could have on civilians, even if they are told to evacuate.

Israel has said that Hamas battalions operate in Rafah. The Israeli military has not responded to NPR inquiries about why the Jouda family's home, among others, have been targeted there.

Morgue records and survivors say most of those killed in this past weekend's airstrikes on Rafah were children, including 16 from one family.

Over the past five weeks, more than 230 people have been killed in airstrikes in Rafah, with three-quarters of the victims women and children, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

The U.N. children's fund, UNICEF, says more than 13,000 children have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, with thousands more orphaned and wounded. U.N. Women says, on average, two mothers have been killed per hour in Gaza since the start of the war.

Anas Baba reported from Rafah. Aya Batrawy reported from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Aya Batrawy
Aya Batraway is an NPR International Correspondent based in Dubai. She joined in 2022 from the Associated Press, where she was an editor and reporter for over 11 years.
Anas Baba
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