“Her injuries are forever, for the rest of her life”

Hamdi Aman, 30, his paralyzed daughter Maria, six, and his son Mo’men, four. (Shabtai Gold/IRIN)

JERUSALEM, 9 August 2007 (IRIN) - On a Saturday morning in mid May 2006, Hamdi Aman, aged 30 from Gaza, had his world turned upside down. Four members of his family died in an Israeli air strike aimed at an Islamic Jihad activist in Gaza.

He is concerned that his daughter, Maria, set to celebrate her sixth birthday next week, will be forced to leave the Israeli hospital where she is being treated for serious injuries sustained in the attack. The authorities want her to go to Ramallah, in the West Bank, but medical workers and Hamdi are worried this will harm Maria.

“It was a Saturday morning. There were eight of us in the vehicle going to visit a relative in hospital. We didn’t know about the Israeli plane overhead looking for Ahmed Dahduh [from the Islamic Jihad].

“We were talking and then suddenly something hit us. I didn’t know at first what it was.

“My mother, Hannan, died. My wife, Naima, and my eldest son, Muhanned, died. My youngest son Mo’men, who just turned four last week, got shrapnel wounds and so did I. My uncle died a month and 10 days later from his wounds.

“My daughter Maria was thrown out of the window. She became paralyzed from the neck down from the injuries to her brain and spinal cord.

“She can only breathe through a ventilator hooked up to her wheelchair. She controls the chair with her chin.

“Her injuries are forever, for the rest of her life.

“Mo’men was injured again a few months later, while Maria was in hospital, in another Israeli airstrike in Gaza. They were trying to kill another militant. The hospital psychologist had to tell me about it. Mo’men is now here with me in Jerusalem.

“We had to fight for Maria to get treatment in Israel. Lawyers and activists helped as did some people from the Israeli media. The Palestinian hospitals in Gaza could not treat her. Even the Israeli doctors call her a ‘unique case.’

“On Thursday [2 August] last week I got a letter from the Israeli ministry [of defense] saying they would transfer her [Maria] to Ramallah. But they can’t treat her there. Children in better condition than Maria come from Ramallah to Israel for treatment.

“What if she has to cross through a checkpoint? If anything happened to her ventilator, no one would be able to help her, she would die within minutes. She has had problems with it several times already. She can’t be left alone for a minute.

“I have no words to describe my responsibilities. I have to take care of everything for her, she can’t do anything on her own. But she is a growing girl, and I am a man and she has lost her mother. It will get harder.

“At first, I couldn’t get a permit to stay in Israel. But I had to be by her side. So I slept on a mattress near her hospital bed, illegally, for seven months, until they gave me a permit.

“She gets excellent treatment here. I don’t want her to go anywhere else, where she won’t get the treatment she needs. It’s only from God, a miracle that she’s alive. She could die if she is sent to a place that cannot treat her as she requires.

“I want her to stay in Jerusalem. The bilingual [Hebrew-Arabic] school has accepted her for next year.

“She’s paralyzed. All she has left is her mind. She needs to study. You should see her use the computer in the hospital, she moves the mouse with her chin. She loves it and she is good at it.

“I want Israel to take responsibility for her, give her the care she needs. I never asked them for anything, not for my dead wife, my mother, my eldest son. But please, just treat Maria. Give her the best treatment.”

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.