BEIRUT

Middle East

Smuggled sperm brings joy to Gaza family

Palestinian baby boy Al-Hassan, the son of Palestinian prisoner Tamer al-Za'anin (seen in photograph) who was conceived with al-Za'anin's sperm smuggled out of an Israeli prison, is held by his grandmother after he was born in a hospital in Gaza City January 10, 2014. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

GAZA, Palestine: The wife of a Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail gave birth Friday to a boy born from sperm smuggled into Gaza, her family said, the first successful pregnancy of its kind in the embattled coastal enclave.

The procedure follows several similar cases last year in the West Bank, and Palestinians view such births as an act of defiance against Israel’s jail policies.

“I am tired and very, very happy,” said mother Hana al-Zaanin, her voice weak, hours after delivering baby Hassan.

Speaking from a hospital bed in Gaza City, she told Reuters Israel had banned her from visiting her husband since his arrest in 2006, citing unspecified “security reasons.”

Most of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are barred from entering Israel for the same reason, although it allows some merchants and seriously ill people to enter its territory from Gaza.

Gaza has been run by the Islamist group Hamas since 2007. Israel has enforced a blockade on the territory and has fought a round of bloody battles with the militant party.

Zaanin declined to say how the sperm was conveyed out of prison, but said its journey to a medical lab in Gaza, where two specialists were waiting for it, took around six hours.

Her husband Tamer was arrested in an Israeli army incursion into the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun and jailed for 12 years for belonging to the Islamic Jihad militant group.

“Today a hero was born to a hero,” the prisoner’s 22-year-old brother Tareq, a hairdresser, said with a laugh.

Israel regards 5,000 or so Palestinian prisoners in its jails, many imprisoned for killing civilians, as terrorists.

As part of struggling U.S. peace talks revived in July after a three month hiatus, Israel agreed to release 104 long-term prisoners in four stages.

They have been welcomed home joyfully, but many Israelis oppose the releases.

In an apparent bid to appease them, the government agreed to expand the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied land.

The insemination of prisoners’ wives led to six pregnancies in the occupied West Bank in 2013, as clinics have become more advanced, community awareness has increased and religious preachers are blessing the practice.

Doctor Salem Abu Khaizaran of the Razan Medical Center in Nablus, a West Bank facility that aided the pregnancies, said, “750,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel since 1967 – many serve long sentences.”

“The families suffer, and our services provide a way out.”

Palestinians say their prisoners are fighters in a political struggle and deserve more protection under international law.

They are rankled by the Israeli government’s decision in 2006 to allow the Israeli assassin of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to conceive a son through conjugal visits.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 11, 2014, on page 11.

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