The paralysed girl fighting a ‘fatal’ transfer to West Bank

By Ben Lynfield, July 11, 2008
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The future of a six-year-old Palestinian girl left paralysed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza remains in limbo after Israeli supreme-court judges balked at hearing her appeal against deportation to Ramallah.

Marya Amin was paralysed from the neck down two years ago in an Israeli operation against an Islamic Jihad leader that also killed her mother, grandmother, older brother and uncle. She appeared in the high court on Tuesday to back up her lawyer’s arguments that Israel must take permanent responsibility for her, since the medical equipment she needs is not available in the Palestinian Authority areas.

“One goal of our petition is to let her stay in Israel, the only place she can live and survive. We also want the state to take responsibility for her in all respects exactly as if she were an Israeli child,” lawyer Adi Lustigman said after judges postponed hearing the appeal until December.

Marya was dressed festively in a pink dress, with a pink ribbon in her hair and fingernails painted to match. She moved around in a wheelchair controlled by a joystick. Her disability is permanent.

The court petition is also aimed at getting Israeli residency for her father and younger brother — both also injured in the attack — who have been staying with her at the Alyn Rehabilitation Hospital in Jerusalem. Ms Lustigman said the hope is to have Marya live outside the hospital while remaining close to its facilities.

Efforts by the defence ministry to deport Marya to Ramallah despite medical advice that this could be fatal, were thwarted last August by a supreme court interim order that expires in December.

“She has a roof over her head and we will keep following this,” said Justice Edmond Levy. “Can you hear me, Marya? A speedy recovery,” Justice Salim Jubran told her in Arabic.

Defence ministry lawyers remained silent during Marya’s appearance. But ministry officials stressed in media statements that the government has, until now, been paying for Marya’s care and for her father and brother’s accommodation.

They said the support was being given for “humanitarian reasons  because by law the state of Israel is not responsible for damages from a combat incident.

“As a matter of principle we believe that, just as Israel treats the Israeli wounded of the intifada and does not place the burden of care on the Palestinian Authority, the Authority must also be seen as responsible for the care of their wounded,” the officials said.

After the court hearing, Marya — who has learnt Hebrew and attends school — munched potato crisps fed to her by an Israeli friend who helps her family. She was asked if she knew what happened in court.

“No,” she said. But the voice of her father, Hamdi, rose in frustration.

“This is a girl who is waiting for God to take her,” he said in Hebrew. “I am asking that they give her a little air to breathe like other children, that they help her to live, to see the world.”

Marya’s wheelchair was raised into a van that would take her back to the hospital. Her father fixed it into place. “Bye, bye” she said, and then moved her lips in a parting kiss to her friends.

    Last updated: 2:27pm, July 10 2008