A sick child in the Gaza Strip died on Sunday after Palestinian infighting and a blockade on the territory prevented his parents from seeking medical treatment abroad for their 10-year-old cancer-stricken son.
Ribhi Jindiyeh is just one child, but his story highlights the price some ordinary Gazans have paid for the conflict between Palestinian rivals, the militant Muslim Hamas and the more secular Fatah.
The power struggle has exacerbated problems caused by a tough blockade imposed by neighbors Egypt and Israel after Hamas wrested control of the strip from Fatah in June 2007.
Since then, the Islamic group has systematically taken over government agencies and in March sought to seize control of a medical committee that handles requests from the seriously ill to travel abroad for treatment unavailable at home. The committee's approval is key in the process of having Palestinian officials apply for essential transmit permits from the Israeli or Egyptian authorities.
As bickering continued, the committee halted work, trapping hundreds of Palestinian patients unable to seek lifesaving treatment for cancer and other diseases beyond Gaza's borders.
The World Health Organization has said eight such patients died by the end of April.
Neither Hamas nor Fatah medical officials could be reached for comment Sunday.
The ninth victim was 10-year-old Ribhi Jindiyeh, a lymphoma patient who spent his last days in a Gaza City hospital, skinny, jaundiced and too weak to move. He underwent chemotherapy last year in an Israeli hospital, and when he returned home in January, he seemed better. But in March, he began urinating blood, his father Hassan Jindiyeh said.
"He died, he died," the shocked father said quietly in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from a local mosque where funeral rites were taking place Sunday. In the background, mourners could be heard chanting passages of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
Following the child's March relapse, Hassan Jindiyeh applied for his son to be treated at the Augusta Victoria Palestinian hospital in east Jerusalem, but a date for treatment was slow in coming.
'It was too late'
A hospital staffer said he believed the fax machine to which Jindiyeh's parents sent medical records was not working and the request was only seen in mid-May. By that time, a hospital specialist decided the boy should be sent to a more specialized Israeli hospital.
"It was clear from the medical reports we saw that the boy would die here. It was too late," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Finally, Jindiyeh's parents received an appointment for their boy to be treated in Israel's Tel Hashomer hospital on May 19.
An Israeli Defense Ministry official said a request to allow the ailing boy to cross into Israel from Gaza was received on Sunday and treated as urgent.
But it was too late for little Ribhi Jindiyeh, who died the same day of heart failure.