Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Palestinian boy from Gaza needs immediate treatment


Gaza boy needs specialised medical treatment abroad

Ahmad, nicknamed “Misho”, is 16 years old and lives in Block 2 of Jabalia Camp in the North of the Gaza Strip. On 1st March, during the recent Israeli military operation codenamed “Warm Winter”, he was seriously injured by shrapnel from a missile launched by Israeli tanks invading northern Gaza. For two weeks Misho was thought dead, as his identity was tragically mistaken for that of his friend Mohammad, killed in the same missile attack. He was lying in Al Shifa’ hospital, his body so wounded that everyone failed to identify him and his parents assumed he had been killed. Misho is alive, and has been reunited with his parents, but he is in need of specialised medical assistance. He has been referred to receive professional medical support abroad, as the damage to his brain and spine has hampered his ability to speak and he is paralysed on the right side. Gaza’s hospitals, affected by the Israeli imposed blockade, are not sufficiently equipped to support his rehabilitation and the Palestinian Ministry of Health cannot fully fund the treatment needed for his recovery.

For this reason, DCI/PS appeals to its partners and to all concerned to help Misho receive appropriate medical assistance. Through this article, we urge organisations willing and able to facilitate Misho’s treatment to get in touch with us.

Early morning on Saturday 1st March, Misho, Mohammad, Abed, Abdullah and Mohammad Emad, aged 15 to 16, were walking towards Al-Seka street, north of Jabalia camp, to watch Israeli military operations. DCI/PS met with Mohammad Emad, who survived the attack. According to his recollection of the events, the Israeli army had invaded the Izbet Abed Rabbo area and stationed their troops on Al-Khashef mountain. Filled with curiosity, the children approached the area where Israeli forces were engaged in violent combat with resistance fighters, but shocked by the gruesome sights they moved from the mountain back towards the camp on Salah Eddin Street. There, they asked a shopkeeper for some water then walked towards Jabalia Martyrs school. As the fighting intensified the children ran away, and hid behind a wall near the school. Suddenly, Mohammad Emad reports, there was a huge explosion:

I felt pain in my foot, fire on my face, and I felt that I was burning all over my body, my right eye was bleeding. It was around 10:15 am. I saw Abdullah (…) to my left 1 metre away and he was lying on the ground on his abdomen (…), he was trying to stand but he couldn’t. After 5 minutes, several ambulances arrived, because of the severe burn I was unable to turn my face to see what had happened to my friends.

As the ambulance reached them, the area was evacuated and Mohammad Emad fainted, only to wake up three days later in Kamal Adwan hospital. He was told that two of his friends had died, Abed Al Raouf and Abdallah, and that Mohammad was seriously injured. However there was no information about Misho.

Misho’s father, Na’im, also spoke with DCI/PS, and recalled the events of that day. After he heard about the attack, he realised that Misho had been missing from home since the morning and started to panic. He started to search for his son under heavy bombardments. He visited all the hospitals in the area, the Red Cross headquarters, and Al Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City, where many dead and injured had been transferred. On the second day of his search, Na’im returned to Kamal Adwan hospital, where he was told about the unidentified body of a child in the morgue; he asked if he could see it. It was a horrible sight. The body was so dismembered, that he was not able to identify it. He tried to recognise the features of the dead child, and identify his belongings, but he could not be certain. Filled with uncertainty and despair, Na’im returned home.

On 3rd March, as the Israeli military eventually withdrew from Izbet Abed Rabbo and Al-Kashef mountain, the search for Misho started again. In the evening of that day, a boy came to visit Na’im. He informed him that a friend of Misho’s, Mohammad Emad, had been injured in the same attack, and had been taken to Kamal Adwan hospital, where he still was. Na’im ran to meet him, and the child’s account prompted Misho’s father to look for the body of his son in the area where the attack took place. Through pictures, a shopkeeper indentified Misho as the child who had asked him for water, and someone had found Misho’s torn shoes near the school. Na’im deduced from this that the child in the morgue was his son. The following day, Na’im buried the child.

Mohammad Emad recounts to DCI/PS how, on that morning, he attended the burial ceremony of his three friends, Misho, Abed Al Raouf and Abdallah. On the same day, he learned that Mohammad had been hospitalised in the Intensive Care unit of Al Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City. About a week later, on 13th March, Mohammad Emad visited him in Al Shifa’ hospital. However, instead of Mohammad, he recognised Misho.

As I entered to visit my friend, I saw something that I couldn’t imagine. I saw Ahmad (…) sleeping in the bed, not Mohammad (…). His features were slightly changed due to the shrapnel in his face, and the bandage on his head and the pipes in his mouth. His body was totally bandaged but his features were that of Ahmad!(…) I looked towards Mohammad’s (…) father, who was standing near Ahmad (…) and told him “this is not your son”. He looked astonished and told me “this is Mohammad, but the shrapnel changed his look slightly”. I told him that that was not Mohammad, but Misho. And Abdo (…), and those who knew Ahmad and Mohammad, said the same thing. Also the other children with me said the same thing. But Mohammad’s father was insisting.

On the same day, a phone call changed the life of Misho’s family. As he left the hospital, Mohammad Emad immediately called Na’im, who could not believe what he was told. He ran to Gaza City, his nerves tense with hope. As he entered the room, Na’im recognised his son.

When I entered the room, 5 metres away from Misho bed, it was like a miracle, the boy on the bed is Misho my son, I recognised him, and I ran toward him saying: Misho… my son…. I am your father! It was unbelievable to see my son again! I looked at Misho in the eye, but he did not say anything, his mouth was full of pipes and his face was full of shrapnel. But he was my son; I could recognise him. Misho looked at me and a tear drop fell from his eye, it was one tear only.

The scene, however, turned tragic when Mohammad’s family continued to claim Misho as their son. Contacted by Na’im, Misho’s mother made her way to the hospital. She lifted her niqab, in order to identify herself to her son, and Misho started trembling, as if suffering from an electric shock; tears pouring down on his face. After establishing their son’s identity through his body marks, Misho’s parents were finally reunited with their son. Misho was alive, severely and irremediably injured, but alive.

Misho needs immediate assistance. He is hemiplegic and both his legs are severely burnt. He lost a finger on his left hand which is also burnt. There are still pieces of shrapnel embedded in his right hand and jaw. He has now been transferred to the Al Wafa’ rehabilitation centre in Gaza City but the hospital cannot continue his treatment, as it is too costly. Misho is slowly re-gaining the ability to speak and on 6th April he will be transferred to Hashomer hospital in Israel. The Palestinian Ministry of Health will partially cover his treatment which, according to the Israeli doctors, should last at least one and a half months. Misho needs to receive urgent specialised treatment. DCI/PS holds Misho’s medical reports; they can be consulted by those with the capacity to help Misho.

For further information, contact us at:
Defence for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI/PS)
Tel: +972 (0)2 242 7530 Ext. 104

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