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‘My whole family has perished:’ 22 killed in Israeli airstrike on Rafah, hospital staff say

<i>Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>A scene from Rafah's Al-Najar Hospital on Monday.
Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
A scene from Rafah's Al-Najar Hospital on Monday.

By Tareq Elhelou, and CNN’s Kareem Khadder, Zeena Saifi and Abeer Salman

Rafah, Gaza (CNN) — Editor’s Note: Warning: This story has graphic content.

Twenty-two people, including at least one infant and a toddler, have been killed in an Israeli airstrike over Rafah, Gaza, overnight into Monday, according to hospital officials.

The deceased were brought into Abu Youssef Al Najjar hospital in Rafah following the attack, as their loved ones gathered for their final farewells.

A video filmed for CNN in the hospital courtyard shows several body bags laid on the ground with dozens of anguished people including men, women and children crowded around their late loved ones.

People are seen crouching over the body bags, with some caressing their loved one’s lifeless bodies. At least one baby’s head can be seen sticking out of a bag, as the woman beside it shouts: “My whole family has perished.”

The baby’s uncle, Mahmoud Abu Taha, was carrying the 1-year-old’s lifeless body while talking to the camera, saying his parents had tried having children for 10 years before he was born.

“We were sitting in our homes, not doing anything. It was unexpected when they struck the house. Everyone was asleep in their beds… most of the people that were killed were displaced… they were women and children,” he said.

Lifting the baby boy’s body to the camera, Mahmoud Abu Taha cries out, “this is who they are targeting. This is their objective. This is the generation they’re looking for. This is the safe Rafah they talk about.”

In response to a CNN request for comment regarding the Rafah strike on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that its fighter jets “struck terror targets where terrorists were operating within a civilian area in southern Gaza.”

“The IDF will continue to foil terrorist activity and protect Israeli civilians, in accordance with international law,” it added.

CNN cannot independently verify those claims.

Another member of the Abu Taha family says in the video that 10 of his relatives were killed in the airstrike. Some of his relatives were originally displaced from Khan Younis, where several of them were killed in a previous Israeli airstrike. The remaining few who had fled Khan Younis for the safety of Rafah have now been killed overnight in Rafah, he says.

“They were sleeping in their homes when the airstrike hit at around 12:20 am…nowhere is safe. The entire Gaza Strip is a target,” he told CNN.

He called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the war, saying “we want to live. We want peace. Enough Arab bloodshed.”

Another eyewitness says a five-day-old boy named Ghaith Abu Rayya was killed in the airstrike. The footage shows him opening a small body bag to reveal the infant’s head, saying his body has been dismembered.

“We are all alone. Nobody cares about us,” he cries.

He is seen opening another body bag next to Ghaith’s, sobbing, and saying, “my beloved Ramy,” who he says is Ghaith’s 33-year-old father.

Several men are seen bringing in another body bag with the name “Ahmad Saleem Abu Taha” written across it, and the crowded people start wailing in distress.

One woman caresses the lifeless face, which has been left exposed, saying: “Oh his smell. Oh God. Goodbye my beloved.”

The death toll in the Gaza Strip has risen to at least 34,454 following 205 days of war between Israel and Hamas, the Ministry of Health in Gaza reported on Sunday. The ministry does not distinguish between casualties among civilians and Hamas fighters.

CNN cannot independently verify the ministry’s casualty figures due to the lack of international media access to Gaza.

Tareq Elhelou reported for CNN from Rafah, CNN’s Kareem Khadder, Zeena Saifi and Abeer Salman reported from Jerusalem.

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