By Ibrahim Barzak, Associated Press Writer
(AP) - Israel prevented two Palestinian children from leaving the Gaza Strip with their doctor to undergo life-saving heart surgery in Armenia, putting the children at serious risk, a U.S.-based relief group said Wednesday.
Two-year-old Rawan Hemaid and 6-year-old Musleh Radwan, both from Gaza City, tried to leave the coastal strip for Egypt on November 4, said Soheel Flalfil, project manager for the Palestine Children's Relief Fund.
The two children were to fly to Armenia from Cairo on November 7 to undergo lifesaving heart surgery, Dr. Flalfil said. However, the group could not get to Cairo because Israel would not allow Raed Sabbah, the children's doctor, to leave the Gaza Strip, he said. The entire group was forced to turn back, Dr. Flalfil said.
"Now the children's lives are in real danger and the families can't travel without the doctor, and we can't select a new doctor because it will take more time for him to study the cases ... and then to get a visa," Dr. Flalfil said.
Ophir Chacham, the spokesman for Israel's coordinator of activities in the territories, which is responsible for overseeing the international border, said could not provide any information about the incident without the identification numbers of the children.
Now, the Palestine Children's Relief Fund is in contact with various international agencies and the Israeli-based Save a Child's Heart to try to arrange passage for the group, Dr. Flalfil said.
The Palestine Children's Relief Fund, based in Kent, Ohio, is a non-profit organization established in 1991 by Americans seeking to address the medical and humanitarian problems facing the Palestinians. The fund regularly sends Palestinian children to the United States and Europe to receive free medical care not available to them in the Palestinian areas.
More than 150 children have been treated outside the Middle East since the fund's establishment. Dozens more receive free treatment in Gaza and the West Bank.