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

Surrey council chambers. (File photo)
Surrey council endorses ‘public engagement’ strategy

Council approves ‘Public Engagement Strategy and Toolkit,’ and a ‘Big Vision, Bold Moves’ transportation public engagement plan

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Surrey council approves $7.3 million contract for street paving projects

City council awarded Lafarge Canada Inc. $7,326,667.95 for 15 road projects in North Surrey and one in South Surrey

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Locke seeks breakdown on what Surreyites get for taxes paid to Metro Vancouver

Surrey councillor presented motion to council Monday asking city staff to do a cost/benefit analysis

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
SURREY NOW & THEN: Little Theatre’s 59-year history ends with big plans for move to Langley

A former church, the theatre building/property has sold for close to $900,000

Old trucks are seen in the yard at the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum in Cloverdale June 14, 2021. The Museum is reopening June 19 after a seven-month COVID closure. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Cloverdale’s truck museum to reopen

B.C. Vintage Truck Museum set to open its doors June 19

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read