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A mother gives birth in Gaza


Now the story of one woman and one baby in the Gaza Strip under Israeli airstrikes, which started three weeks ago after the Hamas attack on southern Israel. Hospitals are barely running, and they're inundated with thousands of wounded and frightened people. Meanwhile, every day, women are still giving birth. NPR's Elissa Nadworny has the story of one of these births, a baby girl named Mariam. And a warning to listeners - this story has graphic content.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: Raneem Hejazi was eight months pregnant when she and her extended family, including her 1-year-old son, fled their home in north Gaza and headed south. They were staying at an aunt's apartment on the fourth floor this week when, at 3 a.m., there was an Israeli airstrike, the entire family buried in the rubble. Hejazi's mother-in-law, Suha, saw her, her arms and legs trapped and mangled.

SUHA: (Through interpreter) Her leg - I could see the bones, the flesh. It was dark. I didn't know what to do.

NADWORNY: Nearby, she saw a gruesome scene. Hejazi's 1-year-old, Suha's grandson, wasn't moving.

SUHA: (Through interpreter, crying) I was saying, Azuz, Azuz - his name. I held him, and I saw that his head was gone.

NADWORNY: The young boy's father, Asad, survived the attack. He escaped mostly unharmed but remembers looking over at his pregnant wife in that moment.

ASAD: (Through interpreter) She said, leave me. I've lost my arms. Leave me to die. My son is dead.

NADWORNY: But they didn't leave her. Somehow, they pulled her out. An ambulance brought her to the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis...


NADWORNY: ...Where thousands of people lined the corridors, seeking safety from the ongoing airstrikes. That's where our producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, met the family and medical staff.

MOHAMMAD QANDEEL: It's, like, unbelievable. You cannot imagine how bad the situation.

NADWORNY: Doctor Mohammad Qandeel was the emergency doctor who treated the wounded Hejazi. When she came in, her legs were badly burned, her arm crushed, in need of amputation. And the baby - they had to deliver her before any other surgeries could happen.

QANDEEL: So we have to take a hard decision, which is to deliver the babies.

NADWORNY: So Doctor Qandeel did an emergency C-section without electricity.

QANDEEL: We have electricity shut down a few days back, and we have to work hours by mobile phone.

NADWORNY: Cell phones illuminated the operating table while they worked.

QANDEEL: We have no water. I don't have water to wash my hands. And this is reality.

NADWORNY: Plus, there's no antibiotics to fight infections. And yet...

QANDEEL: The babies are OK, thanks to God.

NADWORNY: Hejazi is still in the ICU, facing more surgeries. The doctors tell the family she needs to go to Egypt to get better care than the hospitals can give in Gaza. So far, the borders are closed. No one is getting out. But on a day with so much death, including seven members of this family, a baby girl was born. They named her Mariam, after her aunt who died in the airstrikes. Asad, who has been visiting his wife and daughter at the hospital each day, says that soon he'll be able to take baby Mariam, but not home. That's destroyed, and it's unclear what future awaits her.

Elissa Nadworny, NPR News, Tel Aviv.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.
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