Friday, November 24, 2023

Al-Shifa Hospital Premature Babies: All what We know about Rana, Halima’s Baby

When I shared the photo of the premature baby lying alone in an incubator, one eye open and the other injured, little did I anticipate that this image, offering a glimpse into the world of the renowned Al-Shifa Hospital's premature babies, would quickly go viral.

Premature Baby Rana of Gaza, the daughter of Halima Abd Rabou
Premature Baby Rana of Gaza, the daughter of Halima Abd Rabou
by Belal Khaled 

I felt a sense of joy, thinking that the narrative of this tiny fighter, who not only battled for her life as a preterm baby but also faced the additional challenge of being Palestinian, a life the Israeli army seemed indifferent to, resonated with many.

She was introduced in the Arab media as Baby Halima, named after her deceased mother. Regrettably, it later came to light that my information was inaccurate, stemming from a mix-up.

Now here is the correct information.

This is baby Rana Shamlakh, the daughter of Mrs Halima Abd Rabou.

According to photojournalist Belal Khaled of the AFP, baby Rana lost both parents, they are martyrs according to the official documents issued by the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The family are martyrs in Arabic  by Belal Khaled
The family are martyrs in Arabic 
by Belal Khaled 

It is unclear if the mother, Mrs Halima died during the delivery or in the war. 

There was a mix-up of information when Khaled, who is currently doing a tremendous job of transferring the image of what is happening in South Gaza, captured her famous photo at the Emirati field hospital and her medical record where she was introduced as the baby of Halima Abd Rabou.

Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital Premature babies
That photo caused the whole mix-up of names as both names
as mentioned "Rana" and "Halima"
"Belal Khaled"

It turned out that the doctors in Al-Shifa, due to the war, wrote the name on the ankle ID tag as Halima Abd Rabou's baby, which can be read in Arabic as baby Halima Abd Rabou.

Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital Premature babies
The ankle ID said Halima's baby in Arabic 
"Belal Khaled"
Yet, our strong girl is Rana Shamlakh.

"Rana" means "to aspire to or seek for something because of its beauty or goodness" in the Arabic-Arabic dictionary.

Rana became a household name when she was held in front of mobile phone cameras as living evidence of the Israeli army's savagery when it shelled the neonatal unit in Al-Shifa Hospital.

She had an eye injury, and we do not know if it will be permanent or not.

In the video that was sent exclusively to Al-Jazeera, she cried, opening her mouth so wide as she was held high in pain.

The brave doctors of the hospital would transfer her and the rest of the weak premature babies to the ICU, trying to do the impossible to keep them alive despite the lack of resources.

Rana's parents are both dead. But there is hope that some of the Abd Rabou or Shamlakh family, which is actually a big family in Gaza and abroad, are her direct relatives or distant relatives.

What delayed me is that I tried to search for more information about the Shamlakhs, and what I found is that at least 12 family members were killed in an Israeli airstrike in West Gaza on October 8.

On October 30, there was heavy shelling on the Shamlakhs block, according to locals in the Tel Al-Hawa area.

I also found that freelance journalist Assad Shamlakh was also killed. I also found that baby Rana may have a distant relative who lives in London from the Shamlakhs and spoke about the massacres that killed her family while being away.

I relied on the reporting of journalist Belal Khaled from AFP, utilizing his photos and videos for this story. I also relied on the information of my dear fellow great reporters, including dearest Heba Mahfouz.

Rana is not the only baby who lost her parents among the premature babies in this war.

There is this baby who is said to have survived alone in a building, as it seems her mother gave birth to her, protecting her with her body from the rubble. The rescuers did not know her parents or her family, especially if they were displaced.

This anonymous baby girl was found next to a Mosque in Al-Sabra district. 

Al-Sabra Mosque was bombarded by Israeli forces a week ago and the Mosque was completely destroyed. This baby girl may have relatives who have been in that massacre.

Here is the anonymous baby girl on video right after Baby Rana. 

There are also babies whose parents are alive but injured and are in other hospitals, or alive but besieged in refugee camps in North Gaza or in South Gaza with no information about the fate of their premature babies.

Rana and the rest of the premature babies at Al-Shifa Hospital are another example of the famous "WCNSF," or "wounded child, no surviving family," as coined by Palestinian doctors.

Egypt has received 28 premature babies from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza via the Rafah crossing. 

The babies were initially transferred from Al-Shifa Hospital to an Emirati field hospital in South Gaza by a UN mission and the Palestinian Red Crescent. Three babies died en route to Egypt.

Twelve of the 28 premature babies have been transferred to a hospital in Cairo for specialized care due to their critical condition. Egyptian health officials have emphasized that these babies require intensive medical attention.

Two Egyptian nurses caring a Palestinian premature baby from Gaza in  an Egyptian Hospital "AFP"
Two Egyptian nurses caring for a Palestinian premature baby from Gaza in 
an Egyptian Hospital "AFP"

Information on visitation policies is currently unavailable, but it is unlikely that public access will be permitted due to the babies' fragile health and their need for isolation in incubators.

The babies already suffer from breathing and malnutrition.

Egyptian nurse caring for a little Palestinian baby from Gaza Al-Shifa Hospital in an Egyptian hospital "AFP"
Egyptian nurse caring for a little Palestinian baby from Gaza
Al-Shifa Hospital in an Egyptian hospital "AFP"

According to Egyptian volunteers and doctors, only two or three mothers accompanied their babies to Egypt.

Among these mothers is Nour Al-Banna, who was reunited with her twins in Egypt after not knowing their whereabouts for days following their delivery.

There are also parents who were not granted a security clearance to leave the Gaza Strip like Mrs Azhar Saleh

Mrs Azhar Saleh had the heartwarming opportunity to touch her premature baby daughter for the first time since her birth over 2 months and 10 days ago at the Emirate Field Hospital in South Gaza, as reported by Journalist Belal Khaled.

Al-Shifa hospital premature baby
Touching her premature baby daughter before leaving for treatment in Egypt 
"Belal Khaled"
Before leaving Gaza, the mother tenderly gave her baby one last kiss captured by Belal Khaled amazingly.
Kissing her baby one more time before leaving her 
to travel alone on a recovery trip in Egypt "Belal Khaled"

Saleh miraculously survived the Israeli occupation's assault on Al-Shifa Hospital, enduring the storming of the nurseries and the cutting off of electricity to the hospital.

While donations to support these babies are encouraged, there are already established Gaza donation campaigns through organizations such as the Egyptian Red Crescent.

Regarding the possibility of adoption, there is still hope that some of the babies' families may be found. However, if adoption becomes necessary, I concur with the Palestinian people's sentiment that these children should be placed with families within Gaza.

Feeding a Palestinian premature baby from Al-Shifa hospital in an Egyptian hospital "AFP"
Feeding a Palestinian premature baby from Al-Shifa hospital
in an Egyptian hospital "AFP" 

On the day I encountered the news of baby Rana, I also came across a video of a surgeon who lost his son in an airstrike. Despite his valiant efforts to save his son through surgery, including an amputation of a leg, the child tragically passed away. This surgeon's profound loss could potentially be alleviated by the opportunity to adopt one of these babies.

According to UNICEF, more than 5,300 Palestinian children have been killed in the Israeli war against Gaza, accounting for 40% of all casualties.


  1. How can we help relocate Rana's distant family

  2. Speaking of Al Shifa Hospital, I thought these recent videos were interesting.

    First, Zeinobia, you forgot to mention the terrorist tunnels. Here the IDF conducts a tour of the sophisticated Hamas tunnel system under Al Shifa, which got its utilities generously supplied by Al Shifa.

    Second, this one. The IDF took umbrage to that arrangement, thinking "Why should Al Shifa's patients be forced to be human shields?" So they arrested Al Shifa's director.

    I don't know, though. Maybe the patients were enthusiastic about it?

  3. Hi Zeinobia,
    Off topic, but this will interest you, I am certain, and I am not being sarcastic or ironic when I say so.

    Former Obama State Department official Stuart Seldowitz, who I'd guess is Jewish, has been arrested in New York, and faces hate crime charges. He was filmed (video at the link, with discussion) harassing a Muslim Egyptian food vendor in shocking ways. For example he threatened to have the Egyptian government pull out his father's fingernails.

  4. Are there any updates on baby Rana and the rest of the babies?


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