The home of a Swedish family of five was destroyed in Gaza. In the middle of the rubble, an eight-year-old girl was found murdered.
Now the family in Sweden is struggling to allow the rest of the family to return home.
Four days before Christmas Eve, the eight-year-old girl was found in the rubble of the house where she and her family lived.
The house was located in Khan Yunis, the largest city in the Gaza Strip, where in recent days it had witnessed intense bombing and fierce fighting.
The family, all Swedish citizens born and raised in Stockholm, were asleep when the house was struck by two missiles.
The rest of the family members were taken to the hospital after neighbors arrived at the scene and helped them get out of the collapsed buildings.
– In the hospital they were told that Khadija had died, Khadija’s aunt in Stockholm, Hoim Clay (28 years old), tells VG.
Express I mentioned it first.
Try to escape
On the morning of New Year's Eve, Palestinian health authorities reported that at least 21,822 people had been killed and another 7,000 were missing in the Gaza Strip since the outbreak of war on October 7. At least 8,200 of the dead will be children.
These numbers have not been confirmed by independent sources, but the United Nations considers these numbers reliable.
During the penultimate day of the year, at least 150 people were killed in new attacks.
According to Khadija's Swedish aunt, the family of five must have tried to flee the country just six days ago. The grandfather had traveled from Sweden to receive them in Egypt, but the army stopped him.
– Local authorities are the ones who decide who will be allowed to evacuate. Only names on the list are allowed to leave. But some get desperate, like my sister and family, and go to the border crossing and hope, the aunt tells VG.
But the family was stopped at the border crossing with Egypt, where they were told that they were not allowed to leave the Gaza Strip.
– I woke up to my mother screaming
The aunt in Sweden herself received a message that her niece had been killed just hours after the attack on December 20.
– My husband's brother called, and he doesn't usually call us. “I woke up to my mother screaming,” Hoim Clay says.
Khadija's mother, Rena Clay (31 years old), suffered two fractures in her back and was unable to move. All four children were also injured in the attack, but have now been released from hospital.
Photos VG received from the family show the widespread devastation:
Christmas turned sad for a family in Sweden. They are now desperate to bring the couple and four children home.
“I just hope they're alive the day they're allowed to go home,” says the aunt.
The family remains in Khan Yunis, where Israeli forces have penetrated deeper and deeper in recent days. Many are forced to flee again, and in recent days about 100,000 people have flocked to the border city of Rafah to the south, according to UN estimates.
In the ground operation in Khan Yunis, Israel claims to have stormed a Hamas headquarters. Israel suspects that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is now hiding in tunnels under the city.
Throughout Christmas, the family in Sweden received one phone call a day from the family in Gaza, but the internet is weak and it is difficult to contact them.
-It's very intense. Every minute is risky. “It's exhausting to always be watching the news, checking all the pictures and videos and trying to figure out if we know the people in the pictures, and knowing who's coming in and out of hospitals,” says Hoyme Clay.
In the photo gallery below, you can see the destruction caused to various cities in the Gaza Strip during recent days:
She criticizes the Swedish Foreign Ministry for what she believes is inaccessible. She says they tried several times to contact them and ask for help.
– But we don't hear anything. There is no help to be had. She claims they told us they couldn't do anything.
Late on New Year's Eve, Hoim Clay himself participated in a large demonstration in Stockholm to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.
– People have been clear about their criticism of the Swedish government. “I was there with my family, cousins and friends,” Klein says.
It says the demonstration started from Sergel Square across the city from 11pm and did not end until 1am on the night of January 1st. For the 28-year-old, it became a way to process grief:
– After the tragedy that befell my sister and her family, I rarely went out, but I felt comfortable participating.
Swedish Foreign Ministry: Very complicated
The Swedish Foreign Ministry informed VG on New Year's Eve that it could not comment on individual deaths in Gaza.
– Out of consideration for those involved, cases related to deaths abroad are handled with the utmost care and the work follows a special routine. They say that the matter is very complicated in the current situation.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry estimates that about a hundred Swedish citizens remain in Gaza, and assumes that many of them will be able to leave the area. However, they point out that local authorities decide who is allowed to travel abroad and that their opportunities to influence this are very limited.
30 Norwegians left
On Thursday last week, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry reported that there were now about 30 Norwegians and people with close ties remaining in Gaza.
– We have not been able to contact some of them recently, partly due to the internet outage in Gaza. “This worries us,” Foreign Ministry press officer Guri Solberg wrote in an email to NTB.
“Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer.”