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Abdel Rahman Bakr rests at Al-Makassed hospital in east Jerusalem on July 25. / Kate Shuttleworth for USA TODAY

Corrections & Clarifications: A previous version of this story misstated Abdel Rahman Bakr's age. He was born July 4. A previous headline was changed to make clear that the al-Makassed hospital is run by Palestinians.

JERUSALEM - Born with a congenital heart defect just days before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began, it was clear Abdel Rahman Bakr of northern Gaza needed life-saving surgery in Israel.

But it was the global spotlight on the death of his brother and three cousins in an Israeli airstrike earlier this month that prompted Israel to allow the less than one-month-old baby into the country after the Palestinian Authority pushed his case.

Four Palestinian boys ages 9 to 11, including Mohammed Ramez Bakr, 9, were killed while playing on a beach July 16 when an Israeli airstrike hit near the Al-Shati refugee camp in a coastal area in northern Gaza. Gruesome photos of their deaths on a beach spread around the world and became a flash point for outrage over civilian casualties in the fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

"It's a cold-blooded massacre," the boys' uncle, Abdel Kareem Bakr, 41, said after the airstrike. "It's a shame they didn't identify them as kids with all of the advanced technology they claim they're using."

Israel's decision to allow baby Abdel, one of 11 children in his family, to leave Gaza for medical care underscores its sensitivity to international condemnation of the more than 1,030 Palestinians - most of them civilians, and many of them children - who have been killed since the conflict began July 8, according to the Associated Press.


At the Al-Makassed hospital in east Jerusalem, a constant stream of Palestinians brought clothes, toys and financial donations to the hospital room that Abdel and his aunt, Taghrid Bakr, share with a mother and her injured son. Doctors will decide by the end of the week whether Abdel will have open-heart surgery.

Abdel's entry into Israel, facilitated by the Palestinian District Coordination Office and the International Committee of the Red Cross, was approved just four days after his brother died, but his mother wasn't able to travel with him because she didn't have the right paperwork. So his aunt Taghrid took him, leaving behind nine of her own children, including a 13-year-old son who was injured in the chest during the airstrike that killed his cousins.

For Taghrid, a truce in the fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants that has caused her family such hardship wouldn't be enough.

"We don't want a cease-fire - that's simply a return to what we have previously, we need the siege to be lifted and the economy to be revived," Taghrid Bakr said. "When the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation was signed we had hope, this has now been destroyed."

Funded by the Palestinian Authority - with donations from the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia and donors from Europe, the U.S. and Gulf States - Al-Makassed hospital has been treating patients from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for more than 40 years. It treats about 2,000 patients from Gaza a year for more severe ailments, such as rare diseases and those needing complex surgeries.

Since the conflict began, the facility has become a scene of chaos as Gaza residents and their families trickle in for treatment of injuries received while being caught in the middle of fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants. The hospital is currently treating 12 Gazans, and it's hard for many to travel there because of the war.

In the crowded foyer, a group of men sleep on mattresses on the floor, resting after Friday prayers and escaping the hot sun during the daytime Ramadan fasting period.

Down the hall, Abdel and his aunt share a room with Nehad Abu Marahil and her injured son Khaled, 6, who was found buried under the rubble of his uncle's house in Zeitoun in southern Gaza on July 18 after a rocket hit the home.

"I heard the bombardment and I went and saw that my sister-in-law was running," Nehad said, who was nearby in her own home at the time. "We had to clear the rubble from the house and we found him lying still like he was dead."

Khaled suffered internal bleeding on his brain after being hit by a piece of metal and was treated at Shifa hospital, where they managed to stop the bleeding. He was then transferred to Al-Makassed for additional care.

On Thursday, Khaled had just woken up from a coma - his eyes gluey and his movement stifled. It was unclear if he was able to hear or see.

By Friday, he was able to flex his legs, and his eyes were opening wider with each passing hour. He gripped his mother's hand, craving touch as he absorbed his surroundings and the chaos of visitors.

Azhar, a distraught mother from Beit Hanoun who would only provide her first name in order to protect her family, arrived shortly after Khaled woke up.

Down the corridor her 5-year-old daughter, Ala, remains in intensive care after being hit directly by a missile while playing in the street outside Azhar's local butcher, who was giving meat away to neighbors before it spoiled since there was no electricity.

"We are regular people doing regular things," she said. "People were running out of their houses to find safety, taking what they could, some left without shoes."

Contributing: The Associated Press



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Palestinian hospital treats Gazans wounded in conflict

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