Baby Muhannad was born in a Nablus hospital to Dallal Ziben, a 32-year-old mother-of-two from a village in the northern West Bank, whose husband Ammar is currently serving 32 life sentences in an Israeli prison.
Palestinians are not permitted to receive conjugal visits, and although Dallal Ziben has not set eyes on her husband for 15 years, she says she fell pregnant after being artificially inseminated by sperm her 37-year-old husband managed to sneak out of Hadarim prison in central Israel.
“Praise be to Allah who has blessed us after a long absence with my husband in prison,” Ziben said shortly before going in for an elective Caesarean.
Ziben, who comes from Meithalun village between Nablus and Jenin, already, had an 18-month-old daughter called Basha’er when her husband, who belongs to the Islamist Hamas movement, was arrested.
At the time, she was also five months pregnant with their second daughter, Bissan.
“I am very happy. This is the first genuine happiness in our house for more than 15 years,” smiles Basha’er, now 16. “When my mother told us she was going to get inseminated and give us a baby brother, we couldn’t believe it,” she said. “We have always wanted a brother and now the dream has come true.”
After the expectant mother was wheeled into the operating theatre, a group of women from the family gathered outside to wait, breaking into “celebratory ululation” at the first sound of a baby crying.
Standing outside the operating theatre, the proud grandmother said her son-in-law had named the baby after one of his friends “who was a martyr”. Asked if the family objected to the way her daughter fell pregnant, she responded angrily. “We are honourable people who are known for our good reputation and everyone supported us,” she snapped.