Displaced Palestinian mother in Gaza gives birth to quadruplets

Iman al-Masry gave birth to four children at a hospital in southern Gaza after being forced from her home in the north.

Iman al-Masri holds three of her children
Ammar and Iman al-Masry, displaced Palestinians who fled from their home in Beit Hanoon to escape Israeli bombardment, hold three of her quadruplets as they take shelter at a school in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on December 27 [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

Iman al-Masry is simply exhausted after giving birth to quadruplets in a hospital in southern Gaza, miles away from her home in the north of the war-torn Palestinian territory.

In mid-October, days into the Israel-Hamas war, the young woman fled her family home in Beit Hanoon on foot with her three other children seeking safety.

They walked five kilometres (three miles) to the Jabalia refugee camp, looking for a means of transport that would take them to Deir el-Balah further south.

Iman was six months pregnant and “the distance was too long”, she said.

“It affected my pregnancy,” added the 28-year-old mother, who gave birth by c-section on December 18 to daughters Tia and Lynn and sons Yasser and Mohammed.

But Iman was quickly asked to leave the hospital with the newborns – minus Mohammed who was too fragile to go with them – to make room for other patients of the war.

Now, with Tia, Lynn and Yasser, they live in a cramped schoolroom turned shelter in Deir el-Balah along with around 50 other members of their extended family.

“Mohammed weighs only one kilogramme [2.2 pounds]. He cannot survive,” she said of the child she left behind at a hospital in the Nuseirat refugee camp.

Lying on a foam mattress in a schoolroom turned shelter for her and her extended family, Iman recounts her journey from hell.

“When I left home, I had only some summer clothes for the children. I thought the war would last a week or two and that afterwards we would go back home,” she said.

More than 11 weeks later, her hope of ever going back is shattered.

The Gaza Strip, home to 2.4 million people, lies in ruins from the north to the south. According to UN estimates, the fighting has displaced 1.9 million Palestinians internally.

The conflict erupted when Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of about 1,139 people.

Three children wrapped in blankets
Three of the al-Masry quadruplets – the fourth still being treated in hospital – belonging to Ammar and Iman al-Masry sleep as they shelter at a school in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on December 27 [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

Palestinian fighters also took around 250 hostages, 129 of whom remain in captivity, Israel says.

Israel retaliated with a relentless bombardment and a siege of Gaza followed by a ground invasion from October 27.

The campaign has killed at least 21,110 people, according to the latest toll issued by Gaza’s Ministry of Health, with about two-thirds of them women and children.

‘Helpless’

Like other mothers, Iman had hoped to follow tradition and celebrate the birth of her babies by “dousing them with rose water”, she said.

But 10 days on, “we have not even been able to bathe them”, she said, because of the difficulty of finding clean water in the devastated territory, where there is a dire shortage of basic foodstuff, including milk, medicine and hygienic supplies such as diapers.

“Normally, I would change babies’ diapers every two hours. But the situation is difficult and I must be thrifty,” she said, adding that the newborns get only a fresh diaper in the morning and another in the evening.

Her husband Ammar al-Masry, 33, said he is devastated because he cannot provide for his family.

“I feel helpless,” he said, surrounded by his six children in the foul-smelling schoolroom.

“I fear for my children. I don’t know how to protect them,” he said, adding that he spends most of his days outdoors searching for food.

“Tia [who has jaundice] must be breastfed and my wife needs nutritious food that contains protein. The children need milk and diapers. But I cannot get any of that.”

Source: AFP