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“We gave birth to lose them”: Wounded Palestinian mothers cry for dead babies in Gaza

Notice: This article contains descriptions of injuries and injuries.

Raneem Hijazi remembers how tightly he held his one-year-old son Azzouz before the Israeli airstrike.

The drone flying over their building in Gaza was getting louder and louder and she had a feeling something bad was about to happen.

“Whatever happens to me, happens to him,” she says of her reasoning for holding him so close to her pregnant belly.

She doesn't remember the moment of impact, but the memory of the consequences is imprinted in her brain. “You don't feel the blow itself, you just open your eyes and you're under the rubble,” she says.

She immediately began feeling around, looking for Azzouz, until her mother-in-law screamed. “She found it on my belly. She caught it. His body was in her hands and his head fell on my belly,” she remembers.

Since that moment, on October 24, she has questioned her will to live. She initially asked her family to let her die, but instead they sought help to extract her from the destroyed house in Khan Younis.

“My leg was not visible. My arm was hanging off my body by just a small piece of flesh. I tried to tear it off, but I couldn't, so I put it on my stomach,” she says.

When she arrived at the hospital, she was considered dead, she says. Her eight-month pregnancy caused doctors to take another look and force her daughter Mariam to be born by caesarean section.

“When she took her first breath, I came back to life. The doctors told me it was a miracle,” she says.

Hijazi tells her story in a weak voice, lying in a hospital bed in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Her left arm was amputated and both legs suffered extensive damage, requiring bone grafts to repair them.

Critical delay

Despite the occasional groan of pain, the relatively quiet corridors of the Gaza wing of Doha's Hamad Hospital are starkly different from Gaza's overburdened medical facilities.

Behind every door is a story of a miraculous survival marred by inconsolable loss.

Mothers undergoing treatment for life-altering injuries can finally begin to process the loss of a child and the difficulty with their diminished ability to care for their surviving children.

“My daughter was the one who saved me. When I first got hurt, I was saying, 'I don't want her. I want my son back,'” says Hijazi.

“I couldn’t even lift my head. I couldn’t see her, much less take care of her.” She hopes that one day her daughter will give her the energy to move forward.

Hijazi was removed from Gaza for medical treatment a month after her injury. Mariam, almost war age and with the same chubby cheeks as her late brother, is with her grandparents in Egypt.

Hijazi watched Mariam grow up over video calls. She hasn't held it in over six months. In Doha, she leaves the hospital between surgeries and the doctors assure her that she will be able to walk again.

“I have worked in orthopedics for around 21 years. The type of injuries, the severity of the injuries, the types of bone loss and the type of infections we face in Gaza patients are beyond (anything) I have seen before,” says Dr. Hasan Abuhejleh, consultant orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital Hamad.

He had to tell many patients that their amputations, although necessary to save their lives, could have been avoided if there had been more resources available in Gaza.

More than 4,800 people have been evacuated from Gaza for medical treatment since Israel launched its military offensive in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, and thousands more people in serious condition are waiting to leave.

Israel has denied 42% of medical evacuation requests made, the United Nations and aid agencies said in a May 10 update.

In recent days, they added, “the closure of the Rafah crossing has abruptly halted all medical evacuations of seriously ill and injured patients out of Gaza.”

A CNN has not yet received a response from Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to its request for comment on the rejected medical evacuation requests.

Delays in medical evacuations have had a huge impact on cases arriving at Abuhejleh hospital.

Scary photo

Pain reverberates at different frequencies throughout the hospital rooms. Shaimaa Al-Ghoul sends messages to the team at CNN of an isolation room.

Like many patients leaving Gaza, she has a drug-resistant infection, contracted in the territory's struggling hospitals.

Al-Ghoul lost her husband and two of her four children in an airstrike in Rafah in February. The family was sleeping in a room when, suddenly, “the bed broke in half and I fell to the ground floor,” she recalls.

“I heard Hothaifa (his 11-year-old son) begging the rescuers not to leave him behind. I didn’t listen to my husband, Jenan or Mohamed, so I knew they were martyrs,” she says.

She was nine months pregnant and believes the shrapnel that hit her belly also killed her unborn child. Abdullah was stillborn the next day.

Al-Ghoul shares joyful photos of his children before the war, followed by a widely circulated photo of his daughter Jenan's body, her lower limbs severed and propelled by the explosion to hang from a window by the scarf she wore to sleep.

She wants to show the horrors of war and the memories she and others in this ward are haunted by.

His son Hothaifa walks the hospital corridors on crutches. His injured leg is too swollen to bear weight. The laughter that comes easily from her 6-year-old sister, Mariam, who was not with her family that night and was evacuated unharmed, feels foreign to the muscles in her face.

Mariam enters a room that other patients warned us housed patients with horrific stories of pain and loss. She plays on the beds left empty when some patients come out in their wheelchairs to breathe fresh air at sunset.

Life after loss

Inside that room, Shahed Alqutati, 23, has just finished physiotherapy. His left leg was amputated and the other is encased in a cage – a metal structure that holds the broken bones together.

The attack that hit her third-floor apartment in northern Gaza on October 11 threw her and her husband Ali, a 26-year-old university professor, onto the street.

In shock, she opened her eyes and found her leg torn up and blood everywhere. “My husband was in front of me. He was also injured. He lost both legs and his hand. I shouted at him 'Ali, Ali'. He heard me and also shouted 'Shahed'. He looked at his severed arm and asked me 'where is my arm'.”

Those were the last words they shared. Both were taken to hospital, but Ali did not survive. She lost the love of her life and the baby they were about to have.

“A week before the war we bought everything for the baby, all the clothes, all the shirts. Pink, pink, pink. We were very excited,” she recalls. Her daughter Sham was stillborn two days after the attack, two months before her due date.

His suffering did not end there. Alqutati was taken to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for treatment – ​​and in November she suffered an Israeli siege that left patients and medical staff without food or water and with scarce medical supplies.

After two weeks, the Israeli military forced her and others out of the hospital.

Her father pushed her in a wheelchair along damaged roads. At one checkpoint, she says, “Israeli soldiers shot into the air and told people to go back.

Back to where? There's no place to go. We walked and walked for many hours,” she says. This obstacle added another day to his arduous journey through the streets.

By the time they reached Rafah, her wounds were bleeding and infected, Alqutati says, but she was still afraid to enter hospitals, struggling to cope with the daily flow of people injured in the conflict.

“If I go to the hospital, I will die, I will not recover or heal,” she says. Her father took care of her wounds away from hospitals.

The treatment came after she was evacuated from Gaza for medical reasons and with it time to process the loss.

In one of the many videos she shares on social media, her late husband, Ali, is seen smiling shyly when he realizes she is filming him again, at a college event, in the backseat of a car, as he rides in a store.

“No one will feel (my) pain. With the people (I am) strong, happy, laughing. But when I'm alone, I feel something painful here,” she says, pointing to her heart. “I can’t be cured of this,” she says.

“This will stay with me all my life. Amputation, fractures, burns, nerve problems… There is no new leg for me. This is something that will not be forgotten. And how can I forget? I lost my loved one and my baby,” she adds.

Despite the different outcome of their pregnancies, Alqutati and Hijazi describe a similar despair that chains them to the horrors of the war in Gaza.

Like many medical evacuees, they are uncertain about their future and where they might end up, and worried about family members stranded in Gaza.

“Life is over. There is no more joy,” says Hijazi. “I close my eyes and all the memories overwhelm me. I went to the mall and saw the baby formula I used for my son and I felt like I was dying. And it was just baby formula. You can only imagine what happens when I see their photos, videos, toys or clothes,” she says.

Tears stream down her face as she watches a video she filmed of Azzouz laughing. “The pain will never go away. These are things that cannot be forgotten,” she says. “We give birth only to lose them.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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