The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
HOLON, Israel: A 6-year-old Palestinian boy whose powerful relative was assassinated by Israelduring its recently ended offensive in the Gaza Strip has checked into an Israeli hospital for life-savingheart surgery.Abdullah Siam was brought to Wolfson Medical Center near Tel Aviv on Tuesday to repair a hole inhis heart through Save a Child's Heart, an Israel-based project that treats children suffering fromcardiac problems in conflict zones or areas where medical facilities are below par.Nearly half of the 2,100 children who have been treated since the project was launched in 1996 havebeen Palestinian, including 600 from Gaza, the group says. The program has survived the hostilitiesbetween Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Jewish state, including the devastating three-week war thatended on Jan. 18.Save a Child's Heart has worked with children from Gaza through the years when Palestinian militantswere blowing up Israeli buses and is "treating them when Gaza is now bad," Dr. Lior Sasson, head ofcardiothoracic surgery at Wolfson, said Wednesday. "We will continue to do it because what webelieve is that a kid is a kid is a kid and needs to be treated regardless (of) the political situation."Palestinians in Gaza generally are barred from entering Israel for security reasons but some patientswith severe medical conditions are granted entry. Abdullah had been seen by doctors in Israel beforeand had been scheduled for surgery in November, but the operation was delayed, and then the wardisrupted the entry of humanitarian cases."The circumstances were difficult," Abdullah's mother, Houda, said about the battles. "The army cameto our neighborhood, but we were a little far away. But we heard the shelling and the bullets andeverything."Abdullah, clad in pajamas with a Spiderman shirt underneath, stood shyly as the doctor examined him.His mother, Houda Siam, said Israel was "the only place, the only way he can undergo this operation."The boy is a distant relative of Said Siam, a top Hamas leader in Gaza who was killed in an Israeliairstrike near the end of the war. Siam was a key figure in the group's violent takeover of thePalestinian territory in 2007. As interior minister, he was widely feared for cracking down on Hamas'Fatah opponents.Houda Siam said she never met her relative, and a spokeswoman for Save a Child's Heart said thegroup was not aware of the family tie before the boy arrived in Israel.