War amputees in Gaza hope for a distant miracle abroad

Two-year-old Moath's life changed in one moment when an air strike left him unable to walk

Gaza's seriously wounded pray for transfer to hospitals abroad

Gaza's seriously wounded pray for transfer to hospitals abroad
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Two-year-old Moath has not come to terms with his new reality. At an age when he should be learning to run, Moath has lost the ability to walk after an Israeli strike left him paralysed from the waist down.

His mother, Sabreen, is beside herself. In one moment, her son’s entire life changed.

“Moath was on the roof of the building we were seeking refuge in because he needed to use the bathroom. Then the house next door was hit,” she said as her son lay behind her on a bed in Gaza's Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

Shrapnel from the strike hit Moath’s chest and severed his spinal cord. At first, couldn’t understand what had happened to him.

“All he did was cry at first. He just wanted to sleep and cry 24 hours a day.”

“He doesn’t know that he can’t walk. He thinks it's because of the stitches. We try to answer his questions but he still can’t believe he is unable to walk again.”

Sabreen is trying to get Moath transferred for treatment abroad, where there’s more hope than in Gaza.

“We thought that due to his young age, he’d get accepted quickly but it’s been two weeks and we haven’t heard anything yet,” she said.

The UN says more than 1,000 children have undergone leg amputations since the war began on October 7, although the number is believed to be higher.

Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital is the only one still functioning in central Gaza. It receives many more patients than it can treat as resources run out and medical staff struggle to cope.

In the same facility, Asmaa Al Astal, 32, wears a prayer dress that hides her 70 wounds and leg amputation. She was injured 52 days ago.

“I woke up at 12am in the intensive care unit of the European hospital where I stayed for 10 days. They needed to amputate. But couldn’t.”

Every day doctors would say they would do the amputation. But the operation kept getting delayed due to the lack of operating theatres and high volume of casualties needing more urgent surgery.

“I was slowly dying,” Ms Astal said.

Her husband found a way to move her to Al Aqsa Martyrs hospital. But by then, her condition had drastically worsened.

“I’ve never experienced pain stronger than that of an amputated leg,” she said tearfully. “I am in pain constantly. Nothing has helped.”

She has applied to be treated abroad three times, she says, but has been rejected every time.

Her nine-year-old daughter was luckier and has gone to Tunisia for treatment.

“She keeps asking for me. She keeps dreaming that I walk through the door,” Ms Astal said, her voice breaking.

All she wants is to put on a prosthetic limb so she can care for her children and feel like a mother again.

“I have four children. Who will take care of them?”

Ms Astal said her injury has made her feel like a child herself.

“I’m scared of being alone. I’m scared of walking so I don’t fall. I tried to do it but I fell and it hurt more than I can describe.

“I can’t even go to the bathroom alone.”

Only 30 per cent of medics in Gaza are still working after the rest were killed in bombardments, detained or displaced by Israeli forces, the World Health Organisation has said.

Israel's war in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 people since October 7.

Updated: January 09, 2024, 10:12 AM