Displaced by war, Gaza mother gives birth to quadruplets

Days into the Israel-Hamas war sparked by October 7 attack on Israel, Iman Al Masry, 6-month pregnant, fled the family home on foot with three other children seeking safety

By AFP

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Iman Al Masri, a displaced Palestinian who fled from her home in Beit Hanoun with her family to escape Israeli bombardment, feeds one of her quadruplets — with the fourth still being treated in hospital —as they take shelter at a school in Deir Al Balah in the central Gaza Strip on Wednesday. — AFP
Iman Al Masri, a displaced Palestinian who fled from her home in Beit Hanoun with her family to escape Israeli bombardment, feeds one of her quadruplets — with the fourth still being treated in hospital —as they take shelter at a school in Deir Al Balah in the central Gaza Strip on Wednesday. — AFP

Published: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 2:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 2:16 PM

Iman Al Masry is simply exhausted after giving birth to quadruplets in a hospital in southern Gaza, miles away from her home in the north of the war-torn Palestinian territory.

Days into the Israel-Hamas war sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, the young woman fled the family home in Beit Hanun on foot with her three other children seeking safety.

They walked five kilometres to the Jabalia refugee camp, looking for a means of transport that would take them to Deir Al Balah further south.

Iman was six months pregnant and "the distance was too long", she told AFP.

"It affected my pregnancy," added the 28-year-old mother, who gave birth by C-section on December 18 to daughters Tia and Lynn and sons Yasser and Mohammed.

But Iman was quickly asked to leave the hospital with the newborns — minus Mohammed who was too fragile to go with them — to make room for other patients of the war.

Now, with Tia, Lynn and Yasser, they live in a cramped schoolroom turned shelter in Deir al-Balah along with around 50 other members of their extended family.

"Mohammed weighs only one kilogramme (2.2 pounds). He cannot survive," she said of the child she left behind at a hospital in the Nuseirat refugee camp.

Lying on a foam mattress in a schoolroom turned shelter for her and her extended family, Iman recounts her journey from hell.

"When I left home, I had only some summer clothes for the children. I thought the war would last a week or two and that afterwards we would go back home," she said.

More than 11 weeks later, her hope of ever going back are shattered.

The Gaza Strip, home to 2.4 million people, lies in ruins from the north to the south. According to UN estimates, the fighting has displaced 1.9 million Palestinians internally.

Like other mothers, Iman had hoped to follow tradition and celebrate the birth of her babies by "dousing them with rose water", she said.

But 10 days on "we have not even been able to bathe them", she said, because of the difficulty of finding clear water in the devastated territory, where there is a dire shortage of basic food stuff, including milk, medicine and hygienic supplies such as diapers.

"Normally I would change babies' diapers every two hours. But the situation is difficult and I must be thrifty," she said, adding that the newborns get only a fresh diaper in the morning and another in the evening.

Her husband Ammar Al Masry, 33, said he is devastated because he cannot provide for his family.

"I feel helpless," he said, surrounded by his six children in the foul-smelling schoolroom.

"I fear for my children. I don't know how to protect them," he said, adding that he spends most of his days outdoors searching for food.

"Tia (who has jaundice) must be breastfed and my wife needs nutritious food that contains protein. The children need milk and diapers. But I cannot get any of that."


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