Iran's bombing of Israel injures young girl in Arab Bedouin village

On Sunday the hospital waiting room was silent: there was no crowd of relatives, no sea of ​​patients. Israeli air defenses had just repelled a large-scale Iranian attack, recording only one serious casualty.

But there was no sense that a crisis had been averted outside the pediatric intensive care unit at Soroka Medical Center in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Instead, tension filled the air until the ward doors opened and a panting mother stepped out, her face contorted. Then raw emotion quickly took over as she collapsed into a chair, crying.

While Israel suffered little significant damage overnight, this family suffered a devastating blow. Amina al-Hasoni, 7 years old, was clinging to life and was the only serious victim of the Iranian barrage. And if not for systemic inequalities in Israel, her relatives said, perhaps she too might have been spared.

There are approximately 300,000 Arab Bedouins in the Negev Desert. About a quarter of them live in villages not recognized by the Israeli authorities. Without state recognition, these communities have long suffered from a lack of planning and basic services such as running water, sewerage and electricity. And few have access to air raid shelters, despite repeated requests to the state.

The Hasoni family lives in one such community, sharing a hill in the Negev village of al-Fur'ah with a plot of rambling houses. When rocket warning sirens sounded Saturday night, Amina's uncle Ismail said he felt stuck: There was nowhere to go.

Booms overhead signaled air defenses intercepting missiles before there was a large explosion. Then she heard a woman scream – her sister – and “I started running,” she said.

Ismail, 38, found his sister outside the house holding Amina, who was bleeding from the head. His family had decided to escape the rockets, running out the front door. But Amina, who slept in a back room with pink walls covered in painted butterflies, didn't make it.

A missile fragment tore through the thin metal roof of the house, creating a hole with sharp metal edges. It had an impact right in front of the door, where Amina was knocked unconscious.

“I think he hit her as she was running away,” Ismail said.

He said he took the injured Amina from her sister and lifted the girl into his arms. Ismail then tracked down a car that rushed her to the hospital, more than 40 minutes away on a twisting, rutted road that gets lost in some places, with camels crossing in others.

Only then, with Amina walking, did he enter the house, where he said he saw a large piece of black shrapnel the size of a pretzel jar. And “there was blood,” she said, a puddle that had turned into a stream on the tile floor, all the way to the front door.

The orange-patterned tiles had been cleaned by Sunday afternoon. None of the dozen relatives present could say who did it, only that “it was bad for the children to see” all the blood. But Ismail didn't go back inside.

“It's hard,” he said, his jeans and boots still stained with blood. Not far from where she sat, a pink Minnie Mouse blanket and a black-and-white baby dress hung on a family clothesline.

“We could have built shelters here,” Ismail added.

He rejected any suggestion that what happened to Amina was unfortunate.

“It's part of a policy,” he said. “We can't do anything.”

The fragment of the missile that broke into Amina's home was one of more than 150 collected in the area by police bomb squads on Sunday, and the family said officers had taken away the piece that hit their home. Teams scoured the desert for hours, searching for debris and hauling away huge pieces of twisted metal — efforts repeated across Israel.

The Hasonis' home is not far from a military base, Nevatim, which was reportedly the target of the Iranian assault and which Israeli officials said was lightly damaged.

This is little consolation to Amina's father, Muhammad, who spent the morning in hospital taking turns at her bedside. He didn't say much to her, he said, and just repeated her name.

Amina, the youngest of her 14 children, “likes to laugh and have fun all the time,” Muhammad, 49, said. She is a good student with a “strong personality,” she added, and she doesn't always listen to instructions. And she loves to draw.

He called Iran's actions “inhumane.”

“May God tear them down,” he said, without hesitation.

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