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Palestinian inmate beats penal system

Abdul Kareem al-Rimawi, serving a 25-year sentence, smuggles sperm to his wife, who gives birth to a baby boy

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Illustrative photo of a Palestinian prisoner (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a Palestinian prisoner (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

In a revelation that may rub Israeli authorities the wrong way, a Palestinian prisoner serving a 25-year sentence in Israel’s Nafha jail recently became a proud father after smuggling his sperm out of the prison to his wife.

Ma’an reported that Abdul Kareem al-Rimawi’s wife, Lida, gave birth to a healthy baby boy whom the couple subsequently named Majd. Al-Rimawi, imprisoned for wounding an Israeli and for membership in Fatah’s armed wing, has served 12 years of his sentence. The couple has a 12-year-old daughter, presumably conceived the traditional way.

It is unclear who had a hand in the operation beyond al-Rimawi, as the family was reluctant to divulge the secrets of their emission mission.

This is the second baby to be born under such circumstances in as many years. In August 2012, a Palestinian woman gave birth to a boy using sperm that was smuggled to her from her husband, Ammar al-Zein, a Hamas member who has been in an Israeli prison for 15 years and is serving 25 life sentences.

Both babies were born at Nablus’s Razan Medical Center. Dr. Salim Abu Khaizaran of the Razan Center for IVF said he had gathered 40 samples, and that 22 prisoners’ wives had undergone IVF treatment. Five of his patients have successfully conceived over the years, including one woman who delivered a baby earlier this year. He said the success rate was low because of the difficulty in transporting the samples successfully. The Western rate of IVF success is about 25 percent in ideal hospital conditions. Ma’an reported that a total of 16 babies of Palestinian prisoners have been conceived through IVF, although it wasn’t clear which other hospitals were providing the service.

Abu Khaizaran said he gives the service for free in solidarity with the prisoners.

“The wives of prisoners are suffering. They feel they are lonely because their husbands are behind bars, some for the rest of their lives, and they are eager to have babies that can make a difference in their lives,” Abu Khaizaran said.

Relatives refused to say how the sperm was smuggled out, fearing the information would help Israeli authorities to prevent further attempts. They said, however, that the samples were usually carried out in eye droppers.

Palestinians consider the births an achievement in their struggle against Israel. “This accomplishment is dedicated to the Palestinian people, namely prisoners and their families,” Ma’an quoted one of the wives as saying.

The Israel Prison Service said Abu Khaizaran’s claims were unlikely. “We doubt the ability of security prisoners to accomplish such a task, considering the existing conditions and the tools at their disposal,” said spokeswoman Sivan Weizman.

Weizman didn’t offer any alternative explanation for the births.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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