Israel Allows Gaza Mother to Leave, Accompany Her Toddler to Cancer Treatment

Following a Haaretz report, representatives of the Palestinian civil affairs committee informed her Thursday that she was allowed to leave immediately

Hannan Al Khoudari with her son, Louay.
Hannan Al Khoudari

Israel has allowed a Gaza mother to leave the Strip Friday and accompany her 3-year-old son being treated for cancer in the West Bank city of Nablus, following a Haaretz report published Thursday.

Representatives of the Palestinian civil affairs committee informed her Thursday that she was allowed to leave immediately.

The child, Louay Al Khoudari, was diagnosed with aggressive soft tissue sarcoma in January. He was first treated in Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem and then in Hadassah Hospital; he began receiving treatment at the An-Najah Hospital in Nablus as of May.

On Thursday, security sources told Haaretz that his mother, Hannan Al Khoudari, wasn't allowed to leave the Strip because she is a first-degree relative of a Hamas member. Hannan went on Facebook to find eligible unrelated women to accompany her son for medical treatment.

Louay Al Khoudari with the woman, who volunteered to accompany him after Israel refused to let his mother to enter with him, at the hospital in Nablus.

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When his first appointment was set, Hannan applied for permission to leave Gaza to go with him. She was told that her request was under consideration – an answer repeated throughout the next seven months - every time he had an appointment and she applied for a permit.

At first the boy’s aunt was supposed to take him, but her own medical condition has kept her from leaving. He has since missed two treatments in June and July because no other relative could take him.

In despair, his mother wrote a Facebook post in which she solicited unrelated women to help her with her son. The post includes a video clip of the boy on her lap while she describes the surgery he underwent and the agony involved: “From needles to sutures, operations, there isn’t a place on his body that hasn’t been operated on. Every time my son goes, they open his body. I expect you to help me and accompany my son because there’s nobody else [the next appointment] is very soon. You see my son’s condition. He takes six doses each time and you must know how painful this treatment is.”

A woman who saw the post volunteered to accompany Louay and received permission to leave Gaza for his appointments in July and this week. But the doctor in Nablus recommends the mother come herself next time to improve Louay’s chances of healing.

Ahead of Louay’s treatment this week, the organization Physicians for Human Rights asked the District Coordination and Liaison Administration to end this “absurd” situation forced on the child and his mother, and allow them to go together to future treatments. In the letter, the organization notes “categorical peril to the boy’s health and life.” 

In principle, a security source told Haaretz, if there are no security-related restrictions when minors need medical treatment, the absolute preference is for parental accompaniment. But when there is a security obstacle, somebody else acceptable to the family who meets the security requirements is allowed to attend to the minor.

The spokeswoman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories commented that allowing Gaza residents into Israel is not an automatic right, and is permitted only in compliance with policy and subject to security checks.

“Moreover, according to a government resolution, residents of the Strip with first-degree family ties to activists in the Hamas terror organization may not receive permission to enter Israel,” she said.

In July, seven seriously ill women needing life-saving treatment were denied permission to leave the Strip because they are related to Hamas members. The women petitioned the High Court of Justice, challenging Israel's refusal to grant them entry permits. The women filed their petition together with Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza and three Israeli organizations.