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GAZA CITY, Gaza - Shrapnel from an Israeli bomb ripped open Madeleine al Tawil’s stomach, forcing the 12-year-old to cradle her guts as she was rushed to hospital by her father.
But the truck the injured girl was loaded into along with other terrified family members was soon struck by another missile.
As chaos reigned all around, dad Majed al Tawil was forced to commandeer a second vehicle in order to get his daughter to safety, he told NBC News on Friday.
Now Madeleine lies in Shifa Hospital, her abdomen stitched up and a dried tear coursing down her cheek. There were no fighters or weapons in the house where she was hit, she told NBC News – only uncles and cousins, brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents.
Despite her wounds, she is resilient.
“We’re stronger than the Israelis. They are fighting against us, they think they are stronger,” she said from her bed in the intensive care unit. “But we are stronger than they are.”
According to the family’s account, two uncles died overnight during the Israeli ground invasion aimed at destroying tunnels that serve as a lifeline for Hamas, the militants that run the enclave.
Madeleine’s cousin Shayma, also 12, lies in a nearby bed, shaken and tearful. The two had been sheltering on the first floor of the apartment building east of Gaza City with their extended family when the bombs hit at around 4 a.m., according to Madeleine.
But in spite of Israeli warnings to evacuate, and the continued shelling and deaths– some 27 Palestinians were killed overnight – Shayma’s father Amjad Al Tawil promised to return to his partly destroyed home tonight.
“I refused to leave my home,” he said. “Where do you want me to go?”