Closure of Gaza's only route out leaves boy, 10, with no treatment for cancer

By Doaa Rouqa

GAZA (Reuters) - Siraj Yassin, 10, is rolled into the overcrowded Gaza hospital ward in his wheelchair, his light green T-shirt dwarfing his skinny frame since the leukaemia in his blood wrecked his immune system, sapped his strength and left him unable to walk.

Chemotherapy would help him, his doctors say. But he can't get it here in Gaza, and he can't get out of the enclave for treatment now that Israeli forces have shut the only exit through the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

"Two weeks ago, I stopped being able to walk. Every day my condition gets worse and I lose something," the boy said. "My bones hurt and everything hurts. I wish to leave Gaza so I can receive the treatment and be able to play like I used to."

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital is one of the only hospitals still functioning in Gaza, where most of the medical system has been destroyed by Israel's eight-month-old assault.

Residents flock here for basic medical treatment, in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, the last city that Israeli forces have yet to storm.

But doctors say they are helpless to treat seriously ill patients like Siraj, and can no longer send them out of the enclave for treatment since Israel launched its offensive on Rafah last month, shutting the only pedestrian crossing.

All they can give Siraj in Gaza is drugs for the pain.

"Siraj's case is one of hundreds of cases, whether cancer or meningitis cases, or chronic and acute cases. We have a lot of children who are in need of receiving treatment abroad," said his doctor Ziad Abu Fares.

Siraj's mother Mariam said the boy had been granted emergency permission for medical evacuation, and she had hoped to take him out before the border was shut.

"We need chemotherapy, as well as a marrow transplant. I wish for the borders to open so that we can leave and my boy is back like how he used to."

Israel shut the Rafah crossing last month in its assault on the city on the southern edge of Gaza, where around half of the enclave's residents had been sheltering.

It says the offensive there is necessary to complete its aim of destroying the Hamas militants who precipitated the war by attacking Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and capturing more than 250 hostages according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's assault on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 people, according to Gaza health officials.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff)