Deir el-Balah – About 4am one night during the second week of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, Yasmeen Joudah woke up to her mobile phone ringing nonstop.
Astounded, she realised that people were calling to offer their condolences over the killing of her entire family.
Horrified, she ran through the pre-dawn streets to where her parents’ home once stood and flung herself on the rubble, scrabbling through the shattered concrete with her bare hands.
The Joudahs had been asleep when an Israeli missile targeted their four-level home, burying dozens of them underneath the rubble.
Yasmeen looked around helplessly as body after body was pulled out from under the rubble.
Then 16-month-old Melissa, her sister’s cheerful daughter who had just taken her first steps weeks earlier, was pulled out, completely still and quiet. Everyone assumed she was dead.
Shrapnel from the Israeli air attack had lodged in Melissa’s spinal cord, paralysing her from the chest down.
Weeks later, Yasmeen’s grief wavers in her voice, her tears spilling down her face.
“Everyone is gone,” she said, speaking from inside the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital. “All five of my siblings were killed. My mother. My two aunts. Their daughters, their sons. My brother-in-law.