A Palestinian child severely wounded in a 2009 Israeli attack that killed 21 members of her extended family in Gaza has been refused permission to travel through Israel to East Jerusalem for desperately needed medical treatment.
Electronic Intifada reports that 12-year-old Amal Samouni of Zeitoun, Gaza, lost 21 relatives on January 4, 2009 when Israeli forces invaded Zeitoun during Operation Cast Lead.
One of Amal's brothers, 9-year-old Abdullah, told NPR that the invading Israelis stormed his family's home and asked for the owner to come forward. "My dad went out with his hands up and the Israeli soldiers shot him immediately in the doorway," Abdullah said.
After killing Amal's father, Israeli troops then shot their way through the house, even as relatives shouted, "children! children!" Amal's 4-year-old brother Ahmad Samouni was shot dead; at least four other relatives, including two children, were wounded.
Survivors were then ordered into the home of Wa’el Fares Hamdi Samouni, Amal's uncle. While sheltering there, Israeli forces bombed the home, killing 21 of Amal's relatives and injuring many more. Amal was struck in the head by shrapnel and buried under the rubble with dead and dying relatives.
All told, 27 members of the Samouni family, including 11 children and 6 women, were killed between January 4-7, 2009. Another 35 were wounded.
Amal, who has shrapnel lodged in her brain, lives in excruciating pain.
"I have constant pain in my head, eyes and ears," she told Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) last January. "I have been having nose bleeds for the past three years. I can still feel the shrapnel move inside my brain." Local doctors say it is too dangerous to remove the pieces from her head.
The last time Amal was able to receive medical treatment outside Gaza was in 2011 when she traveled to Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank with her grandmother to undergo cosmetic surgery on her forehead. But when her grandmother was no longer able to take care of Amal, her mother applied for a travel permit so that Amal could receive treatment at the al-Maqasid Hospital in East Jerusalem. Israeli authorities denied the woman's application. No explanation was given.
Luckily, Amal is now staying with relatives in Saudi Arabia, where she may receive the care she desperately needs.
Amal's plight is by no means unique. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), just 62 of the 178 applications to enter Israel through the Erez border crossing to seek medical care, usually in the West Bank, were approved during the week of November 15-21, 2012.
Human rights advocates also claim that many Palestinians are victims of Israeli blackmail at the Erez crossing.