A Palestinian father is accused of keeping his two mentally disabled children in his cellar for almost two decades. The 42-year old woman and 38-year old man were allegedly found in a cellar under the family home in the Beit Awa village in the Hebron district. Authorities say the father built two rooms where he hid them away for 20 years although this has been disputed by a local psychiatric hospital where the father had reportedly sought help two years before. Police, who were looking for arms and drug dealers in a raid in the neighbourhood, broke into the cellar and found the siblings in an unlit and unventilated room. The unmistakable smell of urine and feces was everywhere since there were no windows and no place for the odours to dissipate. They were locked inside separate jail-like cells.
The father, Ibrahim al-Masalmeh, 63, has reportedly said he spirited them away to protect them from the laughter and taunts of others, and apparently admitted he was 'ashamed' of his offspring. But he made sure they were clothed and fed. The children's mother died years ago and their father remarried. He has two children from his second marriage but it's not clear if anyone else knew what was going on.
Local authorities are uncertain about what will happen to the pair at present. Given the lack of suitable facilities in the Palestinian territories, an Israeli institution seems the most likely option to provide them with long-term care.