Report: Wife of Palestinian Prisoner Pregnant After Sperm Smuggled to Gaza

Boy will be Gaza's first 'prison baby,' The Guardian reports, joining at least another three West Bank infants conceived in the same way.

A Palestinian imprisoned in Israel and his wife are expecting their first child – even though the couple have not had physical contact for seven years.

According to a report Sunday by The Guardian, the pregnancy was made possible after the sperm of the inmate, Tamer al-Za'anin, was smuggled out of prison and brought through a checkpoint into Gaza, where it was used to inseminate an egg harvested from his wife, Hana al-Za'anin, at a fertility clinic. The fertilized egg was then transplanted in her uterus, the report said.

Za'anin is expected to give birth in January; her baby boy, already named Hassan, will be the first so-called "prison baby" to be born in Gaza. So far, at least three other infants conceived in this manner were born in the West Bank, The Guardian reported.

The pregnancies are reportedly facilitated by doctors willing to advise on the process and to provide fertilization treatments at a low cost or even for free. As a result, dozens of prisoners' wives both in Gaza and the West Bank are expecting children.

Za'anin "is like any other woman who wants to be pregnant. The only difficulty was getting the sperm," Abdul-Karim al-Hindawi, the fertility doctor who treated her, is quoted as saying in the Guardian.

According to Hindawi, it took about six hours to transport the sperm from the prison to the fertility clinic.

"We gave the family some advice on how to pack it," The Guardian cited him as saying. "The best way is wrapped in plastic or in a small vial, and carried between the breasts, where it's warm and dark. Then we freeze it as soon as it arrives."

Tamer Za'anin, 28, was convicted of belonging to the Islamic Jihad and sentenced to 12 years in prison soon after the two were married. His wife, 26, had been previously denied permission to enter Israel to visit him.

It is not clear how the sperm was smuggled out of prison, although the report suggested that another family may have been involved, and that the goods might have been wrapped and disguised as an everyday object that did not arouse the guards' suspicion.

Hana Za'anin told the British newspaper that she and her husband were overjoyed at the prospect of being parents.

"I need to be a mother," she was quoted as saying. "Every woman needs to be married and have children. In our society, this is the role of women."

Za'anin was finally allowed to enter Israel to see her husband after becoming pregnant, but declined for fear that the x-ray machine at the checkpoint would harm the baby. She told The Guardian she hopes to take her son to meet his father once he is born, although that would depend on the Israeli authorities.  

Alex Levac