A Palestinian woman who gave birth to quadruplets at Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital this week cannot have her husband visit her from Khan Yunis - nor will Israel let her return to him in the Gaza Strip.
Hawla Fadlalla has been at Barzilai for more than a month. She had been heading from Gaza to Nablus, where she planned to seek treatment at a clinic, but she never made it there. At Gaza's Erez checkpoint, she went into early labor. With her life in danger, she was taken to nearby Barzilai Hospital instead.
"I want my husband beside me now, to see his children," Hawla told the Palestinian liaison official who called her yesterday to congratulate her on the quadruplets.
He explained to her that Israel would not allow her husband to enter.
Hawla said that before she was admitted to Barzilai, she was asked to sign a commitment not to return to the Gaza Strip.
"I signed. At that moment all I could think about was getting to a hospital," she said yesterday. "Now he can't be with me and the children, and we cannot go to him."
For her husband, Issam Fadlalla, the news of the birth was bittersweet. "It is difficult to describe the joy, because it is mixed with a bit of sorrow. I would have liked to have been with her. I haven't seen her for more than a month," he said.
Hawla recounted the story of their relationship: "I married Issam four years ago. He is originally from Gaza, but when we met, he had been living in the West Bank for more than 10 years.
A month and a half after their marriage, Issam was arrested and charged with falsifying an Israeli identity card, in order to work in Israel. After several months in an Israeli prison, Issam was released to the Gaza Strip, despite his requests to be sent to the couple's home in the West Bank.
Hawla joined him in Gaza after obtaining a visitor's permit good for seven days. She stayed for seven months, during which she underwent artificial insemination.
"I never thought I'd live in Gaza," she said. "The Gaza Strip is a graveyard. Anyone who wants to die should go live in Gaza."
Her pregnancy gave her high blood pressure, and Hawla decided to return to the West Bank for medical treatment and bed rest with her family there.
Now, blocked from entering Gaza, Hawla wants the new family reunited in the West Bank, where they originally intended to live.
"The Israeli authorities should show consideration for our humanitarian case," she said yesterday. "I won't agree to my children knowing their father only through photographs and the Internet."
She said she did not want to raise her children in Gaza. "It's a miserable place; you can't raise children there today. But I don't want my children to grow up without their father, or to leave me when they go to live with their father. That is every mother's nightmare."
Since she arrived at Barzilai, Hawla has been under the care of Prof. Eyal Antebi, the head of the gynecological and obstetrics department. Since none of her relatives had entry permits to Israel, the nurses took her under their wing. The babies were born by Cesarean section.
"This is her first pregnancy and she was nervous before entering the operating theater," explained operating room head Anat Eliasi. "She is alone here, in a strange country, undergoing her first pregnancy, which was by artificial insemination. That is not easy."
The head of the neonatal intensive care unit, Dr. Shmuel Zangan, said the babies - two boys and two girls - were born prematurely but were healthy, although one girl is still on a respirator.
"Humanitarian cases must take precedence over security situations," said Issam Fadlalla. "They understood that at the hospital, and my wife received devoted and pleasant treatment."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now