Mahmoud a-Najar, 15, from Gaza, who for 16 days was denied entry to Israel to receive treatment, died in January 2011 in East Jerusalem hospital

Wafa a-Najar, 46

Wafa a-Najar

My son Mahmoud, who is 15, was hospitalized on 4 December 2010 at a-Shifaa Hospital, in Gaza City. He underwent tests and was found to have leukemia. Since then, we have all been suffering his hardship, and have wept over the illness that has attacked before he had a chance to grow up His condition steadily deteriorated, and we were very worried. At first, we didn’t know anything about this illness. Until Mahmoud got leukemia, we had had never heard about it. Nobody in our family ever had it.

The doctors referred Mahmoud to Augusta Victoria Hospital, in East Jerusalem, and an appointment was scheduled for 28 December. On 15 December, his uncle Muhammad had done what he could to get a permit to enter Israel, but it had not come by the 28th. We feared for Mahmoud’s life. The doctors examined him and found that he was in a terrible condition.

On 10 January, Muhammad submitted a new medical report to the Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry, in Gaza City, which they were to forward to the Israelis, hoping to get the permit quicker. Two days later, Mahmoud took another blood test, which indicated that his condition had gotten worse. His bodily systems began to collapse, and his hemoglobin was below eight.

Mahmoud a-Najar in a-Shifaa hospital in Gaza City. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 12 January 2011.
Mahmoud a-Najar in a-Shifaa hospital in Gaza City. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 12 January 2011.

The next day (13 January), I went with Mahmoud to Erez Checkpoint. I gave the Palestinian liaison official my ID card and Mahmoud’s birth certificate. They arranged for us to cross over to the Israeli side. Mahmoud was in a wheelchair because he was unable to walk. It took me about 20 minutes to get to the inspection point on the Israeli side. We entered the checkpoint and I passed through the electronic check.

The soldiers demanded that Mahmoud stand up so he could undergo the electronic inspection, even though it was very hard for him to stand. I explained his condition, but the soldiers insisted that he go through the check. Mahmoud got up and went through the check twice. Then the soldiers ordered him to go into a room to undergo another inspection. The inspections lasted about an hour. When he came out of the room, he told me the soldiers had ordered him to undress completely. Then they ordered him to get dressed and leave the room.

We left the checkpoint. We got into a taxi and drove to Augusta Victoria Hospital, in East Jerusalem. Mahmoud underwent tests. His hemoglobin was seven. The results of the other tests were terrible as well.

The first day he was at the hospital, he received 17 units of liquid infusion. The next day, we got the results of his tests, which confirmed he had leukemia, and that his immune system was very weak. The physicians decided to give him chemotherapy, because the illness had spread throughout his body. That same evening, he received his first chemotherapy treatment. The physicians prepared a referral to Hadassah Hospital. Following the treatment, his condition stabilized, and the physicians decided not to transfer him to Hadassah.

The next day, Mahmoud received more chemotherapy, and his condition continued to be stable. The following day, around 10:30 A.M., his situation worsened and he was taken into intensive care, so he did not receive chemotherapy. He remained in intensive care. I waited and prayed he would get better and would be moved from intensive care. All day and night I monitored his condition and barely managed to rest because I was so worried. He remained in intensive care for a few days.

On Friday (21 January), I went to noon prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque. I was very concerned on my way back to the hospital, and when I got there, I went straight to his room, to see him behind the glass. He was surrounded by physicians, who were giving him artificial respiration. I cried for him, and felt he was hovering between life and death. I prayed he would get better.

I wanted to go in and knocked on the door a few times, but the physicians did not open it for me. When I insisted that I be allowed to go in, a nurse opened the door. The physicians were giving him artificial respiration. A few minutes after I entered, I saw Mahmoud raise his head, and I felt he was dead. Then the physicians told me he had died.

I couldn’t bear it. I hoped so much that he would live. I hoped that he would be healthy and whole, that he would remain with me. I sat next to him and cried. I felt very sad. He was an innocent child who only wanted to live and love life. He always helped me in the house and outside. The physicians comforted me and took me from the room. They tried to calm me.

That same day, we returned Mahmoud to Gaza and buried him in the Jabalya refugee camp. That is what happened. That is how I lost my son.

Wafa a-Najar, 45, married with seven children, is a homemaker and a resident of Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip. Her testimony was given to Muhammad Sabah on 26 January 2011 at a-Shifaa Hospital, Gaza City.