This is the story of a little boy in Gaza with a brain tumour, whose parents have been refused permission by Israel to travel with him to hospital in Jerusalem for radiotherapy.
Gaza does not have radiotherapy facilities because Israel prohibits the import of radioactive materials into the Gaza Strip.
I saw three-and-a-half year-old Abdel Karim al-Dalo, in his grey flannel hoodie, before I knew who he was. He was wandering, alone, down a long white hospital corridor, clutching a half-nibbled felafel with both hands.
As I walked past, I gave him a big smile. But I did not get one back.
This is very unusual in Gaza, where children are always excited to see a new face. Instead, Abdel Karim stopped and just stood there, staring up at me, with deep, dark, doleful eyes. It was the saddest little face in Palestine.
A long wound, stretched from the top of his forehead to the crown of his head, blue stitches tied off in a knot at the top. Abdel Karim’s skull had been cleft open - and very recently.
"It’s a brain tumour," said Dr Mohammed Abu Shaban, director of paediatric oncology, when I enquired about the little boy I’d seen in the corridor. "He had surgery one month ago. It was his third operation. He suffered a relapse because of a delay in his treatment. This is a very serious case."
And what, I asked, was the cause of this delay, if the case was so urgent? Abdel Karim’s mother, Ghada, was, it turned out, refused permission to accompany her son to a hospital in Jerusalem. They’d had to re-apply for his grandmother to travel instead. It had been a lengthy process.
"During the delay, Abdel Karim’s condition deteriorated," his father, Arafat, told me. "Instead of the transfer process taking 20 days it took nearly two months." The boy’s father sighs, as the child sits quietly on his knee. His mother, sitting beside them, stares at the floor.
Arafat al-Dalo is not permitted to enter Israel because he had once been shot in the leg by an Israeli high-velocity bullet. Arafat, who is a tailor by trade, insisted categorically that he was not a militant. He had got caught up in a shooting incident at a border crossing, he said.
Ghada thinks she was refused because one of her brothers had been shot dead in a clash with Israeli forces. This made him a “shahid”, a “martyr” in Palestine; in Israel, it made Ghada a suspect.
"There is no humanity at all in the way the Israelis deal with us," said Dr Abu Shaban. "It is dehumanising. Now," he says, "Abdel Karim needs radiotherapy, but we do not have the facilities in Gaza." He signed a referral form, recommending the boy’s urgent transfer to Israel, again.
Gaza does not have radiotherapy facilities because Israel prohibits the import of radioactive materials into the Gaza Strip. Israel’s control of the borders also means restrictions on other cancer medication, including chemotherapy drugs.