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Closure of Gaza's only route out leaves boy, 10, with no treatment for cancer

June 4, 2024 at 5:45 pm

The dialysis department of the Al-Shifa Hospital which was targeted by the Israeli attacks, reopen after two weeks in Gaza City, Gaza on June 01, 2024 [Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu Agency]

Siraj Yassin, 10, is rolled into the overcrowded Gaza hospital ward in his wheelchair, his light green T-shirt dwarfing the Palestinian boy’s skinny frame. Leukaemia has wrecked his immune system, sapped his strength and left him unable to walk.

Chemotherapy would help him, his doctors say. However, he can’t get it here in Gaza, and he can’t get out of the enclave for treatment now that Israeli forces have shut the only exit through the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

“Two weeks ago, I stopped being able to walk. Every day my condition gets worse and I lose something,” explained Siraj. “My bones hurt and everything hurts. I wish to leave Gaza so I can receive the treatment and be able to play like I used to.”

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, the last city that Israeli forces have yet to storm, is one of the only hospitals still functioning in Gaza, where most of the medical system has been destroyed by Israel’s eight-month-old offensive. Residents flock there for basic medical treatment.

Doctors say that they are helpless to treat seriously ill patients like Siraj, though, and can no longer send them out of the enclave for treatment since Israel launched its offensive on Rafah last month, shutting the only land crossing to Egypt. All they can give Siraj in Gaza are drugs for the pain.

“Siraj’s case is one of hundreds of cases, whether cancer or meningitis cases, or chronic and acute cases,” said Dr Ziad Abu Fares. “We have a lot of children who are in need of receiving treatment abroad.”

Siraj’s mother Mariam said that the boy had been granted emergency permission for medical evacuation, and she had hoped to take him out before the border was shut. “We need chemotherapy, as well as a marrow transplant,” she pointed out. “I wish for the borders to open so that we can leave and my boy is back like how he used to be.”

Israel shut the Rafah crossing last month in its assault on the city on the southern edge of Gaza, where around half of the enclave’s displaced residents were sheltering in supposed “safe” zones. It claims that the offensive there is necessary to complete its aim of destroying the Hamas resistance movement.

The cross-border incursion by Hamas on 7 October led to the killing of almost 1,200 Israelis, many of them killed by the Israel Defence Forces, it was reported by Israeli media. The movement took 250 hostages back to Gaza, where some are still being held.

Israel’s subsequent military offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza has so far killed more than 36,000 people, most of them women and children, and wounded at least 80,000 more. An estimated 10,000 Palestinians are buried under the rubble of their homes, presumed dead.

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