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GAZA: A Palestinian doctor tends to the baby of Sabreen Al-Sakani, who reached the emergency unit of the Kuwait Hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip in critical condition after she was gravely wounded in the head and abdomen in a Zionist air strike, on April 20, 2024. - AFP
GAZA: A Palestinian doctor tends to the baby of Sabreen Al-Sakani, who reached the emergency unit of the Kuwait Hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip in critical condition after she was gravely wounded in the head and abdomen in a Zionist air strike, on April 20, 2024. - AFP

‘Miracle’ baby delivered from dying mother’s womb in Gaza

UN calls for international probe into deaths at Gaza hospitals

GAZA: Under a ceaseless storm of strikes in Gaza, a baby girl has survived insurmountable odds as the only member of her family left alive after she was delivered by Caesarian section as her mother lay dying. At just seven months pregnant, her mother, Sabreen Al-Sakani, reached the emergency unit in critical condition after she was fatally wounded in the head and abdomen at the weekend.

A Zionist air strike hit her family’s house in the east of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, witnesses told AFP. “It’s a miracle that she was still alive, despite her difficulties in breathing,” Sahib Al-Shams, a surgeon and director of the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah, told AFP. While examining Sakani, the hospital’s medical team realized she was pregnant. They decided to go ahead with a C-section immediately, despite a lack of anesthetics. “The mother died 10 minutes later,” Shams said, adding that the baby’s father and sister had been declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Hospital staff said the baby was in stable condition on Tuesday morning. At least 19 people died in the air strike on the Sakani family home, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The newborn was transferred to the pediatrics unit of the Emirati hospital, a field hospital established in December in Rafah to cope with the besieged Palestinian territory’s mounting toll of injured and dead. “We quickly put her in an incubator, put her on oxygen and treated her with antibiotics,” Haidar Abu Snimeh, an official at the Emirati hospital, told AFP.

‘Baby of the martyr’

Rami Al-Sheikh, the baby’s uncle, will become the orphan’s caretaker upon her release from the hospital. “Every day, I go to the hospital to check on my brother’s daughter who was rescued from her mother’s womb,” Sheikh told AFP. “I named her ‘Sabreen Al-Ruh’ because her father wanted to name her Ruh,” he added, referring to the Arabic word for soul.

Several local media said the baby weighed less than two kilograms, and that her mother had been in her seventh month of pregnancy when she was born. “The fact that this little girl was born alive despite the circumstances is nothing short of a great feat,” Abu Snimeh said. He added that when a pregnant woman like Sakani struggles to breathe, the fetus lacks oxygen, which can hinder its development. Palestinian journalists filmed the birth, footage of which was widely circulated Monday.

A handful of similar births were reported in the coastal territory. Makkah Abu Chamalah was born by post-mortem C-section on Oct 21, after his mother was critically wounded by an air strike on their home in Rafah. The identification tag pinned to his incubator read “baby of the martyr Dareen Abu Chamalah”. UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday, “The latest images of a premature child taken from the womb of her dying mother, of the adjacent two houses where 15 children and five women were killed — this is beyond warfare.”

‘Horrified’

Meanwhile, the UN called on Tuesday for an international investigation into reports of mass graves at two Gaza hospitals destroyed in Zionist sieges, saying war crimes may have been committed. The United Nations rights office said it was “horrified” by the destruction of Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al-Shifa in Gaza City, and its second largest, the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Yunis.

On Monday, the Palestinian territory’s Civil Defense agency said health workers had uncovered more than 200 bodies of people killed and buried at Nasser Hospital, which was besieged by Zionist troops last month. In early April the World Health Organization said Al-Shifa had been destroyed by a Zionist siege, leaving an “empty shell” containing many bodies.

The UN rights office on Tuesday demanded “independent, effective and transparent investigations into the deaths”. “Given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators,” Turk said in a statement. Hospitals, which are protected under international law, have repeatedly come under Zionist bombardment over more than six months of war in Gaza. “Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law,” Turk pointed out. “And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees and others who are hors de combat is a war crime.”

The UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said efforts were underway to corroborate reports and details given by Gaza authorities. The latter say 283 bodies were recovered from Nasser hospital, including 42 that had been identified. “Victims had reportedly been buried deep in the ground and covered with waste,” she told reporters in Geneva. Older people, women and wounded were reportedly among the dead, she said. Others were allegedly “found with their hands tied and stripped of their clothes”. 

As for Al-Shifa, the Zionist army has said around 200 Palestinians were killed during its military operation at the hospital Shamdasani pointed to reports indicating that this toll “may be an underestimate”. Around 30 bodies were reported found buried in two graves in the courtyard of Al-Shifa Hospital. “And there are reports that the hands of some of these bodies were also tied,” Shamdasani said.

The reports that some had their hands tied indicated “serious violations” of international law, she added. “These need to be subjected to further investigation... They can’t just be more reports in this horrific war that just pass under the radar.” — AFP

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