Khan Younis, Gaza Strip – Only a few hundred metres from Nasser Hospital’s morgue, Palestinians are breathing new life into the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.
“I am telling the Israeli occupier, if you think killing Palestinians will make us cower… no way,” Abeer Saqqa told Al Jazeera, only a few hours after delivering her newborn son, Anwar.
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The hospital’s neonatal unit is buzzing with activity. A 72-hour truce between Israel and Hamas has provided a reprieve to more than a month of Israeli shelling on the Palestinian territory.
At least 1,965 Palestinians have been killed, and almost 10,000 others have been injured, since Israel’s military operation in Gaza began on July 8, according to the United Nations. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians have also been killed.
“I am now more determined than ever to bring in more children, to compensate for those Israel has taken away,” Saqqa, 20, said.
Haneen Alfarra, 30, gave birth just one hour after her 34-year-old husband was killed by an Israeli air strike on August 1. “The air strike hit our home while we [were] fleeing,” she said, crying.
Married for eight years, Alfarra has three other children, aged between two and five years. Her 10-day old daughter is not yet named. “Her dad, grandfather, and cousins were all killed by the missile,” Alfarra said.
Since Israel’s military operation began in Gaza, local officials reported that at least 4,500 babies have been born. In 2013, 66,600 babies were born in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, or 5,550 babies each month. The population of Gaza is expected to reach 2.1 million by 2020.
Dr Yasmine Wahba, of Nasser hospital’s nursery unit, told Al Jazeera that this number of births could be higher, but several women have had miscarriages.
“Fear is a main cause for the high increase in premature births… most babies here are between 30 and 32 weeks, with full-term births being over 37 weeks,” said Wahba, adding that the unit is running at full capacity, which is rare.
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Fifteen hospitals and 16 public health clinics have been damaged in the current Israeli operation, according to the UN. The local health ministry also reported that 13 of 54 primary health-care centres in Gaza have been closed due to Israeli bombing, while seven out of 21 UN-operated primary health-care centres have also been closed.
This has forced several women to give birth at home, or at shelters, without proper medical care.
Despite these challenges, Palestinians in Gaza have not been deterred. “Israel cuts our electricity, so let them handle the increasing [birth rate],” said Abu Sami, a father of 13 from Khan Younis.
Meanwhile, from her bed the Nasser hospital maternity ward, new mother Abeer Saqqa said she would build a tent on the ruins of her family’s demolished house.
Giving birth, she added, was part of her will to resist. “If they kill one [child] we will give birth to 10 more.”