Gazan families in UAE struggle to sleep as nightmare continues for those back home

Palestinians tell of gratitude after receiving crucial medical treatment at Emirates Humanitarian City

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A Palestinian girl seriously injured in an Israeli air strike has shared her dream of returning to a war-free Gaza after being helped to walk again in Abu Dhabi.

Lama Suhel Mady, 11, suffered a fractured pelvis when a rocket attack reduced the building where she was sheltering to rubble. The strike killed 45 people.

She has received vital medical care at Abu Dhabi's Emirates Humanitarian City – which has become a sanctuary for 1,200 Palestinian evacuees – as part of a UAE humanitarian operation

She is one of many Gazans wounded in the conflict who are being set on the road to recovery at the vast compound.

“The pain is gone,” said Lama, who was in a wheelchair when she first told her story to The National in January.

Gazans receiving treatment in UAE fear for families back home

Gazans receiving treatment in UAE fear for families back home

“I am almost done with my treatment and, honestly, I expected to be able to walk again as soon as I heard that I was coming to the UAE. Now I just want to run back to Gaza and for the war to be over.”

Her mother, Sabreen Musa Mady, who is staying with her in the EHC, is thankful for the lifeline her family has been given.

“The transformation is miraculous. My daughter used to be on her back, unable to move, then moved to a wheelchair, and now she’s walking and running,” said Ms Mady, 45.

More than 20 members of Ms Mady’s extended family were killed in the attack, including a daughter whose body has not been found.

Lama was injured when the building collapsed. Her older sister, who was on the second floor, sustained a dislocated hip and several fractures. She was sent to Egypt for treatment and is making a slower recovery.

'Our miracle baby'

When The National first met one-year-old Rakan Saif in January, he had stood up first time on a prosthetic leg fitted at the EHC.

He had lost a leg and his hearing after a bomb blast at the building where he was staying with his family. He had to be pulled from the rubble.

Months on, he is happily walking alongside his grandmother, Manal Abdulla, 46.

“This is our miracle baby,” Ms Abdulla said. “We are grateful and feel very lucky to be here, but our families are still in Gaza. My family is now living in a tent.

“Rakan is better, he gained around 5kg and now smiles and laughs all the time, but he is one so doesn’t understand yet the horrors and gravity of this war.

“He is the only source of happiness to the family right now. When his parents see him smile and safe and happy on the phone, they get so happy but we don’t know if we will see them again or what will happen next in Gaza.

“We are grateful that we are here and are all getting better day by day physically. There are so many who couldn’t leave.”

Rakan will be fitted with a bionic leg next week.

Harsh realities of war

“In Gaza, you either die on a hospital floor or in your house. You are dead either way. Nowhere is safe,” Laila Ibrahim, 50, told The National in January.

Today, she struggles to enjoy food in the safe surroundings of the EHC, knowing so many are starving back home. She is in the UAE with her son Malak, 13, who lost his hand after a bomb hit a supermarket in Gaza.

“I ran from a bomb that hit the supermarket I was in before realising that I was holding on to the amputated hand of my 13-year-old son,” she said.

Malek survived the blast and was fitted with a prosthetic arm at the EHC.

When The National first met him, he had just learnt how to hold a pencil with his new arm. He continues to make progress.

“We are very happy here but I am worried about the rest of my kids back in Gaza,” the mother of three said.

Her family is hiding in a school in Rafah. She spoke to her other children, aged seven and 14, on Wednesday for the first time in three weeks.

“When I spoke to them, they were crying for me to get them. They were saying: 'Mama, please come get us, we are going to die,'” she said through tears.

“We can’t sleep at night from worry. We don’t want to go back now. We know that if we go back, we will die but if only we could all be here together.”

Mohamed Elmadhoun, 18, had a prosthetic leg fitted about three months ago.

Before he arrived at the EHC in December, he had been at his grandfather’s house in Gaza when they were told early one morning that they needed to move to a safer place.

As they headed to a safer location, the air strikes hit, killing Mohamed's mother and wounding him in the leg.

At the hospital, Mohamed said doctors inserted steel rods in his leg and cauterised the wound to stop the bleeding.

They amputated the limb a few weeks later. Today, when not wearing his prosthetic, he uses crutches. He wants to enrol in a university in the UAE.

“When I first arrived, my situation was bad. I was anaemic and had many infections, and there was still shrapnel in my leg. I was in so much pain, but now I am much better,” he said.

'A gift from God'

Thirteen-year-old cancer patient Yazen Abu Hasira was something of a local celebrity in Gaza.

He loves to sing and said he had thousands of followers on social media before he lost his phone.

Yazen was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma – a type of cancer which can affect the neck and chest. The tumour was removed, but chemotherapy affected his trachea, and he needs further treatment.

“God gave him a beautiful voice,” his mother Maryam Abu Hasira said.

Yazen’s dream, the mother of five said, had been to be treated specifically in the UAE.

“Because this is where my voice can reach as many people as possible,” Yazan told The National.

“I want to sing for my homeland, Gaza. I want to sing for this war to end – for people to hear me and end this war.”

Yazen said he had spoken to Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf, a previous winner of Arab Idol, who he hopes will visit him in the UAE.

“There is nothing like the UAE and its people are known for its kindness,” Yazen said. “When I become famous I'll sing for both, the UAE and Gaza. I know that through the UAE, my voice will be heard.”

Updated: March 29, 2024, 12:52 PM