Deir el-Balah, Gaza Strip – When 27-year-old Bisan Dahdouh heard that an Israeli air strike had hit the central Gaza Strip area of Nuseirat where her family was sheltering, she rushed to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.
She wasn’t prepared for what she would see: the body of her one-and-a-half-year-old nephew. “The first body I saw at the hospital was Adam, my sister Sondos’s first and only son,” she told Al Jazeera.
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It was only the beginning of a cascade of devastating news that would hit her and her family. Bisan is the daughter of Wael Dahdouh, the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Gaza.
Wael lost his wife and Bisan her mother, 44-year-old Amna, in the Israeli bombing. Wael’s 16-year-old son, Mahmoud; his seven-year-old daughter, Sham; and his grandchild, Adam, were also killed in the attack.
Eight other extended family members, including Wael’s cousin’s daughter and her four children, were also killed in the attack.
In the emergency department of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, Bisan sat anxiously, awaiting updates on her injured siblings — Sondos, Kholoud, Batoul and Yehya. They all sustained injuries but survived.
The Dahdouh family had recently evacuated from the Tal al-Hawa neighbourhood in the northern Gaza Strip to the Nuseirat area on orders from the Israeli army instructing half of Gaza’s residents to move south.
Amna was fasting when she was killed.
“They had prepared a meal, but she chose to pray before breaking her fast. The bomb then struck, and everything was gone,” Bisan said before breaking into tears, overwhelmed with grief and shock.
Sitting beside her was her cousin, Samah Dahdouh, who lost her 20-year-old brother, Ayman, as well as her 30-year-old sister, Hadeer, and Hadeer’s four children: Mayar, Malak, Mayess and Maid.
With tears in her eyes, 37-year-old Samah explained how she had made the decision to return home to Tal al-Hawa just a day before her family was killed.
She witnessed air strikes throughout the area, prompting her to return to the north while her family remained in Nuseirat.
“They were all gathered at home, and now they’re all gone, my sister and all her children,” she said as she wept.
“I was on the verge of losing my mind. I couldn’t make it to the hospital from Gaza to Deir el-Balah at night. I arrived this morning. I couldn’t bid them farewell,” Samah said.
She lamented the fact that Ayman, who was recently engaged and was preparing for marriage, was among the victims.
‘My only sister’
Among the wounded was 81-year-old Hanan Dahdouh, Wael’s mother-in-law, who suffered severe injuries to her hands and face.
Her 57-year-old son, Ali Dahdouh, spoke in a low voice as he expressed his devastation.
“Amna was my only and youngest sister. We are nine brothers and one sister,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We live next to each other in Tal al-Hawa, southwest of Gaza City, and we all evacuated to Nurseirat after the Israeli orders,” he explained.
“I used to have breakfast with Amna and her husband, Wael, every Friday,” said Ali with tears in his eyes. “Our relationship was very strong.”
Ali was not home when the shelling took place but rushed to the hospital when the news broke.
He explained that his mother remained unconscious and unaware of the tragedy that had befallen her family.
The killing of the Dahdouh family members is no different from the reality for all the residents of Gaza, Ali said. “Everyone here is a target. No place is safe,” he noted.
More than 7,000 Palestinians, including 3,000 children, have been killed since Israel launched a bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip on October 7, the day Hamas killed more than 1,400 people in attacks on southern Israel.
Ali said he is worried about the moment when his mother wakes up to find that her only daughter was killed along with her children.
“My mother is very attached to her. It’s a big catastrophe.”