Video: A girl's painful secret

By Martin Fletcher Correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/19/2006 11:23:08 AM ET 2006-06-19T15:23:08

“Huda, can you keep a secret?” the girl’s uncle asks. “Don't tell your mother your sisters are dead.”

On Friday, 12-year-old Huda Ghaliya's world fell apart. It was a family picnic on the beach in Gaza. Suddenly, an explosion. Her elder sister was wounded but asked Huda to go find Daddy. She went looking and found him, then her four sisters. And her 4-month-old brother. All dead.

It's the first time Huda has seen her mother since the explosion.

“How are your sisters? Your brother?” asks her mother, Hamdia.

“Fine,” Huda replies.

“Have you visited them? You seem frightened.”

“No. I'm confused,” Huda says, but she keeps the secret.

Shocking pictures of the beach bombing have turned Huda into a Palestinian symbol around the world. President Mahmoud Abbas called her the daughter of the Palestinian people. But there is confusion as to what really happened.

Friday afternoon, the Israeli army and Palestinian militants from Hamas had been exchanging rocket fire. Hamas immediately blamed Israel, called off a 16-month truce and swore revenge. Israel said it regretted the loss of life, and brought three of Huda's two wounded sisters and brother to an Israeli hospital for treatment.

On Monday, Israeli military sources told NBC News they have examined shrapnel taken from Huda’s sisters and confirmed that the shrapnel did not come from an Israeli artillery shell.

So was it from a Palestinian explosive?

"All options are being examined,” said Israeli Army spokesman Capt. Jacob Dalal. “Let’s not judge."

No reaction yet from the Palestinians to Israel's claim that its shell didn't kill the family. And Huda seems too stunned to care who did it. She knows that soon she will have to tell her mother the truth.

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