Mother dies after being denied access to health care

The Abdelal family in their Gaza home. (Iyad Albaba)

Ayda is yet another victim of Israel’s devastating closure of Gaza.

While her husband, 37-year-old Zakariya Abdelal from the Gaza City neighborhood of al-Tuffah, was receiving condolences from friends and neighbors, their youngest son, 10-month-old baby Mustafah, lay calmly in the corner.

Thirty-one-year-old mother of seven Ayda died after losing her fight with breast cancer, which necessitated chemotherapy treatment currently unavailable in Gaza. Ayda had almost recovered from her illness after the first round of chemotherapy in a Cairo hospital some months ago.

“She used to watch on us at night, give us a hug when we go to school and kiss us, but now she can longer do this. She is in heaven, she is in paradise, no woman can replace her,” her 12-year-old son Yehya said.

Breast cancer claims the lives of hundreds of thousands of women around the globe each year. However, access to treatment that might have prevented Ayda’s death was denied by Israel for political reasons.

More than a dozen people have died as a result of being denied access to medical care, and many more remain vulnerable, especially those in need of specialized treatment outside of the Gaza Strip. Since Israel’s siege on Gaza following Hamas taking control of the strip in mid-June, medial supplies have dwindled and broken medical equipment is not being fixed or replaced as imports have virtually ceased.

“In August she was supposed to take one more dose of chemicals, as her health condition was improving, which gave us assurance. After repeated appeals to concerned bodies, including the [Palestinian] parliament, we could not secure the chemicals [because of Israeli closure],” Zakariya explained.

Zakariya, holding Mustafah at the condolences ceremony, said that no one responded to his appeals until November, so he managed to have her transferred her to a hospital inside Israel, independent of any organization.

“She was allowed to go into Israel after ten days of coordination and contacts, yet her fate was racing her to the hospital, where doctors told us her body couldn’t absorb the chemicals as the cancer had spread all over,” Zakariya added.

Zakariya wonders, “What does a sick person have to do with politics and what do politics have to do with sick people?”

Ayda’s 10-year-old daughter cried continuously in the crowded receiving room, which included people from the recently formed International Campaign to Break the Siege on Gaza. None of the warm feelings and words extended to this newly grieved girl could calm her down.

Chairman of the International Campaign and Gaza parliamentarian Jamal al-Khodary has launched an appeal to humanitarian organizations to immediately intervene to lift the Israeli siege on Gaza and help save the lives of hundreds people in need of treatment abroad or medication inside.

There are now about 1,000 patients in Gaza lacking treatment, among them 350 who must undergo surgeries abroad, according to the campaign. The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza has recently appealed for the ensuring of access for said patients to go abroad.

According to the Palestinian Petroleum Authority officials, the fuel supplies have been reduced to almost 70 percent. “We used to receive about 600,000 to 700,000 liters of fuel supplies everyday, but we now receive 160,000 liters, which we distribute to prioritized sectors such as hospitals, water and sanitation plants,” says Ahmad Ali, the deputy chief of Palestinian Petroleum Authority in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia recently announced it would send fifty machines for the treatment of kidney failure. Until such equipment arrives, how many more children will unnecessarily lose their parent?

Rami Almeghari is currently contributor to several media outlets including the Palestine Chronicle,, IMEMC, The Electronic Intifada and Free Speech Radio News. Rami is also a former senior English translator at and editor in chief of the international press center of the Gaza-based Palestinian Information Service. He can be contacted at rami_almeghari at

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