Grandfather's grief after three-year-old killed in her bed in Gaza strike

Khaled Nabhan's three-year-old granddaughter, Reem, and five-year-old grandson, Tarek, were killed last week while they were sleeping in their beds.

Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray and words by Lottie Kilraine, ITV News Content Producer

  • Some of the details in this report are distressing

A grieving Palestinian grandfather has described the moment he discovered his grandchildren were killed as they slept after being buried under rubble when their home was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.

Khaled Nabhan’s three-year-old granddaughter, Reem, and five-year-old grandson, Tarek, were killed last week after being crushed while they were sleeping in their beds.

His grandchildren were too young to understand the war they lived and died in, he told CNN.

A video of a grief-stricken Mr Nabhan cuddling Reem’s lifeless body has since been widely shared on social media.

In the clip, he is seen desperately trying to open the three-year-old’s eyes as she lies pale and lifeless in his arms. Her curly hair is tied into bunches and she is dressed in a pink and blue striped top.

Khaled Nabhan with his three-year-old granddaughter, Reem. The two were inseparable, he said.

Mr Nabhan is then seen stroking Reem’s hair and kissing her as he says goodbye for the last time.

“I used to kiss her on her cheeks, on her nose and she would giggle,” he told CNN. “I kissed her but she wouldn’t wake up.”

In another video, also circulating on social media, the two youngsters’ bodies lay prepared for burial in white shrouds while Mr Nabhan smoothed his grandson Tarek’s hair.

“I combed his hair like he would always ask me to, like a photo he would always show me,” his grandfather explained.

“He loved his hair like that, now he’s gone. I was wishing, hoping that they were only sleeping,” he added. “But they weren’t sleeping, they are gone.”

His grandchildren were too young to understand the war they lived and died in, Mr Nabhan said. / Credit: CNN

Mr Nabhan and his granddaughter were inseparable, he said. With the children’s father working abroad, the family had lived with their grandfather and he was Reem’s “whole world”.

Speaking to CNN from the ruins of his home, Mr Nabhan described the final evening he spent with his family, breaking down in tears as he recalled how they had begged him to take them outside to play.

He refused to let them go out due to the danger from Israeli airstrikes, he said.

“They kept asking for fruit but there is no fruit because of the war,” he said. “I could only find them these tangerines.”

But the children died before he had been able to gift them the fruit.

They were killed when their home was brought down by what Mr Nabhan said was a nearby Israeli airstrike in the Al Nuseirat refugee camp in southern Gaza.

Khaled Nabhan had found tangerines for his grandchildren but they were killed before he could gift them the fruit. / Credit: CNN

Mr Nabhan said his daughter Maysa, the children’s mother, had also been in the house when it collapsed. She survived along with her sister but both were seriously injured.

Speaking to CNN, Maysa said the last thing she remembered was the sound of her daughter screaming and she felt something heavy pinning her down, then she woke up in hospital.

It was there she was told that her young children had been killed and that the pair had died together under the rubble.

“At the hospital I was just numb,” she said. “I hugged them, I wanted to get as many hugs as I could. No matter how much I hugged them, I didn’t get enough.”

Maysa woke up in hospital to the news that her children had been killed

Mr Nabhan said he is not a fighter and stressed that his family had nothing to do with the war.

The conflict was sparked when the militant group Hamas launched a deadly terror attack on parts of Israel on October 7 – killing 1,200 people and taking over 200 others hostage.

As part of a temporary truce deal over the last five days, Hamas has released 81 hostages, mostly Israeli nationals, while Israel has freed 180 Palestinian prisoners that had been detained since before the war.

More than 15,000 Palestinians have died since the start of the war, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. The figure includes 6,150 children and 4,000 women.

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