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Middle Eastern good-news story ends badly


Ismail Haniyeh, top Hamas official in Gaza, visits his year-old granddaughter in a Gaza hospital before her transfer to Israel.









It’s a frustrating feature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that even the good-news stories often have unhappy endings.

This past Sunday, when Palestinian officials in Gaza got in touch with Israeli military authorities, the exchange seemed to have all the elements of a warmly encouraging tale set against a backdrop of suspicion, suffering, and pain.

As reported in the Israeli media, a one-year-old Palestinian girl by the name of Amal Haniyeh had contracted a severe inflammation of the digestive tract and her condition was worsening fast.

The officials wanted to transfer her to Israel, for emergency medical treatment there.

It just so happens that the girl in question is the granddaughter of Ismail Haniyeh, top official in Gaza of the Islamist militant movement Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s existence. The two sides have come to blows many times in recent years.

Israeli officials frequently do permit people from Gaza to cross the barriers separating the two sides in order to seek medical attention in Israel, where the quality of care is much higher than in Gaza. They make their decisions on a case-by-case basis.

In this instance, permission was granted, and Amal was rushed to the Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petach Tikva, arriving late on Sunday, accompanied by her maternal grandmother.

Relations between Israelis and Palestinians are often depicted as a cauldron of unmitigated hostility, but the truth is at least somewhat more complex, as the tale of 12-month-old Amal Haniyeh powerfully suggests.

There is an interdependence in the relationship, too – not to mention a quantity of humanity and even altruism. There’s a recognition of shared needs, shared hopes, shared sorrows. You just don’t hear about these aspects much.

Unfortunately, in this case, it was the sorrow that prevailed – a rare good-news story from the front lines of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meeting another disappointing end.

According to Israeli military spokesman Major Guy Inbar, doctors in Petach Tikva were unable to save the girl’s life.

“She was brought into Israel,” he told The Times of Israel website, “but returned to Gaza after her condition could not be stabilized. She is in critical condition.”

According to a Facebook posting by the girl’s father – Abdul Salam Haniyeh – the girl on her return was in a state of “clinical death.”

Oakland Ross is a foreign affairs reporter for the Toronto Star.


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