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A boy in Gaza was killed by an Israeli airstrike. His father held him and wouldn't let go

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — (AP) — He wouldn't let go.

Nael Al-Baghdadi held his 12-year-old son, Omar, and held him tight. But it was already too late. Omar, who was playing outside near his home, had been killed Tuesday in the Gaza Strip by an Israeli airstrike.

In the photo made by Associated Press photographer Abdel Kareem Hana after the strike, al-Baghdadi's eyes are shut. He holds his son, whose small body rests limply in his arms. His right hand and right shirt sleeve are streaked with blood. Grief is etched upon the father's face, but more than that there is an expression of deep love for the child he has just lost. So much love that he insisted on holding Omar, uninterrupted, until the child could be shepherded hours later to his grave.

Omar and his three friends were playing soccer in the street near their house in the Bureij refugee camp around noon Tuesday, under a blistering sun, when the Israeli airstrike hit and sent the street into a swirl of dust, blood and chaos. Al-Baghdadi was already in nearby Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah with his injured brother. His cousin ran toward the wreckage, found Omar and took him to an ambulance.

From there, he called the father and broke the news: His son had been killed; be ready to receive him. According to al-Baghdadi, he met the ambulance when it rolled into the hospital, picked up his son's body and carried it to the morgue, weeping all the way.

He refused to put his son on the ground inside the morgue, holding him gently until he was shrouded and the funeral prayer was performed before a quick burial.

One image, one moment — a child lost, a father's grief, an excruciating goodbye.

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