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Gazans mourn baby who dies after rescue from dead mother’s womb

RELATIVES gathered by a tiny sandy grave in Gaza, where they had buried a baby girl, who lived just a few days after doctors delivered her from the womb of her dying mother following an Israeli airstrike.

The baby had been given the names Sabreen, after her dead mother, and Rouh, which means “soul”.

Her mother, Sabreen al-Sakani al-Sheikh, 30 weeks pregnant, was seriously injured when the Israeli strike hit the family home in Rafah, the southernmost city in the besieged Gaza Strip, on Saturday night. The baby’s father Shukri and three-year-old sister Malak were killed.

Doctors delivered the baby by Caesarean section, but the mother died of her wounds. Doctor Mohammad Salama, head of the emergency neo-natal unit at Emirati Hospital, who had been caring for the baby, said the infant suffered respiratory problems and a weak immune system and died on Thursday.

“I and other doctors tried to save her, but she died. For me personally, it was a very difficult and painful day,” he told Reuters by phone.

“She was born while her respiratory system wasn’t mature, and her immune system was very weak and that is what led to her death. She joined her family as a martyr,” Salama said.

“Maybe if it weren’t for the Israeli war on Gaza and the devastation of hospitals, we would have been able to help more children survive. But hospitals were damaged and others destroyed and our capabilities have become much limited.”

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More than 34,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been confirmed killed in the six-month-old war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas militants, according to the Gaza health ministry. Israel denies deliberately targeting civilians in its campaign to eradicate Hamas.

Uncle of Sabreen al-Rouh, a Palestinian baby girl, who died a few days after she was saved from the womb of her dying mother Sabreen al-Sheikh (al-Sakani), killed in an Israeli strike along with her husband Shokri and her daughter Malak, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, crouches next to her grave in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, April 26, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Much of Gaza has been laid to waste by Israeli bombardments and most of the enclave’s hospitals have been badly damaged, while those still operating are short of electricity, medicine sterilisation equipment and other supplies.

The baby’s grandmother had pleaded for the doctors to save her, to “keep the memory of her mother, father and sister alive, but it was God’s will that she died,” Salama said.

Her uncle, Rami al-Sheikh Jouda, sat by her grave on Friday lamenting the loss of the infant and the others in the family.

He said he had visited the hospital every day to check on the baby’s health. Doctors told him she had a respiratory problem but he did not think it was bad until he got a call from the hospital telling him the baby had died.

“Rouh is gone, my brother, his wife and daughter are gone, his brother-in-law and the house that used to bring us together are gone,” he told Reuters.

“We are left with no memories of my brother, his daughter, or his wife. Everything was gone, even their pictures, their mobile phones, we couldn’t find them,” the uncle said.

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By MOHAMMAD SALEM and NIDAL AL-MUGHRABI

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