Palestinian American teenager injured in Gaza strikes recalls sibling's last hours

Yousof Abu Shaban and his family were wounded when an Israeli explosion hit near their home

Yousof Abu Shaban mourns the loss of a younger sister killed in an Israeli air strike that injured his father and youngest sibling. Photo: Yousof Abu Shaban
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A Palestinian American teenager said his family is emotionally shattered after watching his younger sister die when an Israeli air strike hit their home in Gaza city.

Michigan-born Yousof Abu Shaban, 18, suffered injuries to his hand and had shrapnel embedded in his jaw.

His visually impaired father, mother and sister, eight, were also wounded in the strike outside their home on Wednesday.

I keep thinking my sister was alive but when the ambulance came, they said Joud was dead
Yousof Abu Shaban, Palestinian American teenager injured in Gaza strikes

“I saw the blast, it was like a big bomb that shook everything,” the engineering student told The National from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

“My sister was alive then. We waited two hours for the ambulance.

“We were all bleeding, me, my father, sisters, my mother.

“I kept thinking my sister was alive but when the ambulance came, they said Joud was dead.”

Doctors have told the family that Yousof requires intensive surgery to remove the shrapnel lodged in his jaw.

With medical equipment and fuel supplies all but exhausted, the operation is not possible in Gaza.

Rafah crossing delays

The family cannot come to terms with the death of 14-year-old Joud.

“It completely destroyed me, my family, emotionally, psychologically,” Yousof said.

“My sister didn’t harm anyone and she is gone.”

The family had gone to the Rafah crossing twice after Israel declared war on Hamas and began bombarding Gaza.

He is among hundreds of Palestinians with dual nationality who have waited for hours at the Rafah crossing hoping to leave Gaza.

Yousof’s family stayed in a school near the crossing for a few days and returned to their home in Gaza city when water shortages worsened.

The family had planned to leave for Rafah on Thursday morning hoping they would be among the first permitted across in case the border opened up.

But only lorries carrying humanitarian aid have been allowed into Gaza so far.

“If we had been evacuated, my sister would have been alive,” said Yousof, who was born in the US when his father was studying for a master’s degree.

His family moved back to Gaza several years ago.

“I’m just very, very sad. It is affecting us badly that she is not with us.”

'How can we recover?'

Yousof’s father Abedalaziz Abu Shaban, 45, teaches English in a Gaza school for the visually impaired. He said he is unsure how Gaza can ever recover.

“We were attacked in my own house, my daughter was killed,” he said.

“How can we ever recover?”

The death toll in Gaza has risen to more than 5,080 people with children and women comprising most of the victims.

The Health Ministry has said that about 800 children are among 1,500 Palestinians trapped under the rubble in Gaza.

The unprecedented crisis flared up after October 7 when Israel sealed off Gaza and began pounding it with air strikes in retaliation to a surprise attack from Hamas fighters that killed about 1,400 people and saw about 200 others taken hostage.

Many people are seeking refuge at At Al Shifa Hospital.

Mr Shabaan said his family was terrified.

“Can you please tell the Israelis not to bomb the hospital,” he said.

“We don’t know if the hospital is safe.

“There are thousands of injured people here. There are no medicines, no proper water.

“We are suffering. The situation is becoming more and more dangerous.”

Updated: October 23, 2023, 3:11 PM