Trapped and Starving, 2 Families in Gaza Try to Keep Their Children Alive

By John Mercury April 24, 2024

Born in wartime, the baby had not eaten in more than a day, his father said — no formula, no nothing. His parents had already spent the last of their money on food, sold his mother’s gold jewelry to buy milk and begged water from other evacuees to mix the powdered formula. Now even that was gone.

The baby, Jihad, and his parents, Nour Barda and Heba al-Arqan, were trapped now in a storage closet with five other people at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza last month as Israeli troops attacked. They had some Palestinian thyme and foraged wild greens to eat, but only that, and just enough water to moisten their mouths once in a while, Mr. Barda told a Times reporter. Gunfire jackhammered outside. The Israeli military had surrounded the building and told anyone sheltering inside to stay put.

Al-Shifa was the same hospital where Jihad had been born five months earlier — five months of searching all day for a little food, of nearly getting knifed over a little flour. All his parents could do now was sit and watch their son go hungry. Hungry herself, Ms. al-Arqan had no breast milk to give.

After two days, they had had enough. Jihad had not eaten in 28 hours. Holding one of Jihad’s dirty white T-shirts up on a broomstick, holding the baby close, they made their way toward the Israeli soldiers.

They left for southern Gaza that same day, they said, alongside other civilians fleeing the hospital raid. Israel’s invasion of the northern part of the territory, where the family lived before the war and had been sheltering ever since, meant there was nothing left for them there but starvation.

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