Abdallah Alhamadni poses for a photograph at his home in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday, May 29, 2021. Alhamadni has a wife and two children in Gaza. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Abdallah Alhamadni poses for a photograph at his home in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday, May 29, 2021. Alhamadni has a wife and two children in Gaza. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Parents calling on Canada to evacuate children stuck in the Gaza Strip

A ceasefire ended the 11-day war that left hundreds of people dead and deteriorated Gaza’s infrastructure

When Mahmoud Khalaf’s wife and two children travelled from Canada to visit extended family in the Gaza Strip in April, they couldn’t imagine they would end up stranded there during a deadly war between Israel and Hamas.

Khalaf, an electrical engineer in London, Ont., said his wife took their five-year-old and two-year-old to visit family for the first time in seven years and wound up living through the horrors of the bombardment of Gaza.

“They have never experienced something like that,” he said. “For my kids, it was something very difficult and hard to understand what’s going on, especially coming from an environment where they never felt like they might die.”

Last week, a ceasefire ended the 11-day war that left hundreds of people dead and deteriorated Gaza’s already weakened infrastructure. The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 230 Palestinians died, including 65 children. Twelve people in Israel, including a five-year-old and 16-year-old, were killed.

Khalaf’s wife and children are among dozens of Canadians currently in Gaza, which has been under blockade since 2007. The main point of exit is through Egypt, but only a limited number of people are allowed to leave at a time and they must apply weeks in advance.

He and other Canadian residents with families in Gaza fear more bloodshed and are calling on the federal government to urgently help their loved ones evacuate.

“As a government, they should be taking care of their people,” said Khalaf. “Right? I mean, that’s the government’s job.”

Global Affairs Canada didn’t answer questions on whether the department is planning to evacuate Canadians from the Gaza Strip.

Department spokeswoman Patricia Skinner said consular services are being provided through the Canadian representative office to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

“Global Affairs Canada has been advising Canadians to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip due to continuing conflict, the possible resumption of armed hostilities, and the difficulties to leave the area since October 2000,” she said.

There are 160 Canadians in the Gaza Strip currently registered in a federal database of Canadians abroad, but since registration is voluntary, the number is likely higher.

Khalaf said his five-year-old son who was born in Canada couldn’t understand the situation and the reasons behind the bombing in Gaza.

“The questions come up: ‘What’s happening? Why is this happening? Is this happening in Canada? Is this happening everywhere, or is it just here?’” he said.

He could hear the explosions when he called or FaceTimed his wife and kids, he said.

“Sometimes it’s really close. When it is close you see (my son) jumping, like he would be jumping from wherever he is right into his mom’s arms just because he’s terrified,” he said.

“That in itself, being so far away from them, was extremely difficult and extremely painful at the same time.”

The situation has also impacted asylum seekers and more recent immigrants whose families are still in Gaza.

Abdallah Alhamadni received refugee status in December and works as an emergency responder with a medical transportation company in Mississauga, Ont., where he transfers people infected with COVID-19 from their homes or long-term care facilities to hospitals.

He has applied for permanent residency for himself and his family members and has contacted the Immigration Department several times asking them to expedite the process, he said.

“My family, they are under huge stress all the time (while) they are waiting,” he said.

Alhamadni is living in Canada with the daily risk of contracting COVID-19 and becoming very sick because he has chronic high blood pressure and diabetes, he said.

Meanwhile, he fears for his children’s lives in Gaza.

“I was terrified something could happen to them, especially (with the bombardment of) houses very close to where they are living.”

Alhamadni and a group of parents with children in Gaza are working to bring attention to their situation. They have contacted the federal government and several Members of Parliament and will start a petition to ask for the evacuation of their families, he said.

The government should give the families temporary visas while their permanent residency applications are being processed or fast-track the applications, Alhamadni said.

He also contacted the Canadian representative office to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, which he said told him it would let him know if an evacuation of families is being planned.

“There are no real promises they will bring them here to Canada,” he said. “We are lost. We don’t know what to do.”

READ MORE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commits $25M for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank

The Immigration Department did not say whether it planned to evacuate families of people living in Canada from the Gaza Strip.

It said it was unable to comment on individual cases for privacy reasons but it is aware of the situation of resettled refugees’ dependants who remain in Gaza and it is monitoring the situation.

Global migration has been upended by the pandemic, but the department has prioritized urgent protection cases, vulnerable people and those performing essential services, it said.

Sammar Mohammed is another member of the group of parents working to bring children to Canada. She has been living with her two daughters in Windsor, Ont., since 2019 while her husband and her two other daughters are still in Gaza.

She is waiting for their permanent residency applications to be processed so the rest of her family can join her in Canada.

“This is our issue and our pain — the long processing time,” she said.

Mohammed used to do video calls with her daughters, but now they either lose internet or power, she said.

Her husband is a journalist with a local TV station whose building was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, she added, and a classmate of her 13-year-old daughter was killed during the war.

She said there are serious consequences for her loved ones as they continue to wait, especially with a fragile ceasefire that she believes could end at any moment.

“If they survived this war, God knows what will happen during the next offences on Gaza.”

—-

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Gaza IsraelIsrael

Just Posted

Caledonia Secondary School is the recipient of a $50,000 grant to replace its aging science equipment. (File photo)
Cal snags major grant to modernize science equipment

The $50,000 comes from a pharmaceutical company

Unemployment rate drops in northwestern B.C.

Large improvement since Spring 2020

Uplands Nursery this year will do all of the 4600 Block of Lazelle Ave., beginning at its east end, and a portion of the 4700 Block. (File photo)
Lazelle sidewalk project begins June 14

Improvements coming to 4600 and 4700 Blocks

Cassie Hall Elementary School students pose for a picture in their garden. Since 2019, students and staff at the school have been attending to the garden project. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)
Cassie Hall students grow a green sanctuary at school

The K-6 elementary school students and staff have been working on the garden project since 2019

Glenn Bennett returns as chief councillor for Kitselas First Nation after June 10 elections. (Submitted photo)
Kitselas First Nation votes Glenn Bennett as chief councillor on June 10

Six council members were also elected from a packed pool of candidates

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Most Read