Bombarded twice by Israeli strikes, 4-year-old Ahmed loses parents, then legs

15 November 2023 - 13:28 By NIDAL AL-MUGHRABI
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Palestinians inspect the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza, November 14, 2023.
Palestinians inspect the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza, November 14, 2023.
Image: REUTERS/Anas al-Shareef

The boy keeps asking for his parents, and he wants to get up and walk, but his parents are dead and his legs have been amputated.

That is the plight of Ahmed Shabat, a four-year-old boy whose parents were killed when their home in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northeastern corner of the Gaza Strip was hit by an Israeli air strike.

"The child asks every day. 'Where is my father? Where is my mother? Every single day. But we try very hard to make him forget, and adjust to the situation he is currently in," said Ahmed's uncle, Ibrahim Abu Amsha, who has become his guardian.

Abu Amsha said the force of the blast threw the boy into a neighbouring house and killed 17 family members in total. The only other survivor was Ahmed's two-year-old brother.

More than 52,000 people lived in Beit Hanoun before the war. There is barely a single inhabitable building still standing there, according to a report in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth by veteran Israeli reporter Nahum Barnea, who was taken to see it by the Israeli military on Saturday.

Abu Amsha said he and other extended family members took in the two little boys at their home in Nuseirat refugee camp, in a different part of the strip, south of Gaza City, only for it to be hit by another Israeli strike.

Both of Ahmed's legs were catastrophically injured. With the boy's life in danger, he was taken to Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah, a town further south, where orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ahmed Zayyan took him into his care.

"We received this child with newly sustained injuries. He had severed lower limbs," the doctor said at the hospital, speaking on Saturday as preparations were underway for him to operate on Ahmed.

Dr Zayyan said the hospital was overwhelmed with other gravely wounded patients, and Ahmed's surgery would take place not in a proper operating theatre but in a room normally used for births.

"We are going to carry out lower limb amputation due to severe lower limb lacerations, to the right leg. The amputation is above the knee. Same for the left leg," he said.

"WHAT DID HE DO?"

During the surgery, Dr Zayyan spoke about the challenges of such a serious operation on a young child, and about how hard the war has been on the hospital staff.

"The medical staff are exhausted. There is a lack of staff. Some were martyred, or injured, be it doctors, nurses, or anaesthesiologists," he said.

"The operation on a child is difficult because you have to specify the location of the vein, the artery and the nerves, and to isolate and separate them, which takes time.

"We try to carry it out as fast as possible, to supply the child with the blood he lost when he was injured ... We hope for the best."

Ahmed is now recovering. At his bedside, his uncle stroked his face and gave him a toy car, but the boy tossed it away.

"He asked me a number of times, he wants to get out of bed and walk. He asked me more than once, and I have told him that we should wait until his leg feels better, or after we take the medicine," said Abu Amsha.

"He does not feel that he lost his legs, but we will have to try very hard, just like we try to make him forget his parents, to make him forget this."

The war was triggered by militants from the Islamist group Hamas who rampaged through southern Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people, including babies and children, and dragging more than 200 back to Gaza as hostages, according to Israel.

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched an air, sea and ground assault on densely populated Gaza that has killed more than 11,000 people, most of them women and children, according to Gazan health officials.

Israel blames Palestinian civilian casualties on Hamas, which it accuses of hiding among ordinary people to use them as shields. Hamas denies this. The United Nations and international aid groups speak of a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

"The child not only lost his parents, he lost his legs too," said Abu Amsha. "He is still a child. What did he do to deserve this?"

Reuters


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