Father holds on to hope for Gaza boy, eight, blinded by two Israeli strikes

Ahmed Alattar has developed a speech impediment due to trauma and says he misses his family stuck in Gaza

Blinded Gazan boy, eight, just wants to see again

Blinded Gazan boy, eight, just wants to see again
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

An eight-year-old Palestinian boy is living in Egypt, away from his family, after tragedy struck twice in Gaza and left him blind.

Ahmed Alattar has also developed a speech impediment and says he misses his family.

His ordeal began on May 11, 2021, when fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas. Shelling by Israeli troops near his home caused retinal damage to Ahmed's right eye.

His father, Semran Alattar, immediately applied for passports so he could take the boy to Egypt for treatment.

The documents took two months to arrive, because Israel was blocking mail from entering the enclave. Travel procedures also took 10 more days, Ahmed's father says.

The long delay was a setback as Ahmed needed medical intervention within 25 days of his injury.

He suffered complications in the right eye and eventually lost all sight in it. But he could still see with one eye.

Then a year later, in a cruel turn of events, the same scenario happened again. "He was playing with other children when a shell struck near by," Mr Alattar says.

This time, the boy's left eye was injured. Despite this, his family was hopeful.

"The optical hospital in Gaza got him a transfer to Egypt for surgery and he began to see," Mr Alattar says.

He expected Ahmed's follow-up appointment in Egypt to be routine. But, again, there was a setback.

A piece of shrapnel was trapped inside the eye, which had been missed by several doctors.

"This was discovered in October. In March, he was due for surgery. We left for Egypt then," Mr Alattar says.

It was one of the most difficult days for Ahmed's father. He had to spend Ramadan away from his family back home. After returning to Gaza, there were more complications.

In total, Ahmed underwent 25 operations on his right eye. Up until July of last year, he had about 20 per cent of his vision intact in his left eye, but by August he was completely blind.

Another operation was scheduled for October 8 last year, but a day earlier the devastating Israel-Gaza war broke out.

Mr Alattar's wife was visiting her mother when their home was destroyed by an Israeli air strike.

"I tried to get in touch with my wife about the cash I had been saving up through loans from people, for Ahmed's surgeries. But she said everything was gone," he says.

"She couldn't take money or clothes for the children. She couldn't even take medication for our youngest, Mahmoud, who also suffers from an illness."

A separated family

Today, Mr Alattar is in Gaza with his family, away from his son, who remains in Egypt with his grandparents.

Mr Alattar made the difficult decision to be with his wife and their children in Gaza during the temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in November.

"I left Ahmed with tears and sorrow," Mr Alattar says.

On the phone, Ahmed often tells his father he misses him and that he wants to be with him during his operations. Mr Alattar says his heart breaks at the sound of his son's voice. He can hear the sadness over the phone.

"I keep telling him I can't leave his mother and siblings alone," he says. "Who will take care of them and feed them?"

Mr Alattar's still holds on to a glimmer of hope. His wish is for the slightest recovery of vision in his son's left eye, "just to see the road he is walking on, only to see the food he is eating and the colour of the clothes he is wearing".

Updated: January 23, 2024, 4:23 PM