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

Shuswap Immigrant Services Society plans to hold a vigil on Friday, June 25 at 8 p.m. to honour the victims of what officials are calling a terrorist attack on five Muslims in London, Ont. (File photo)
Salmon Arm council holds minute of silence to honour victims of Ontario attack

Shuswap Immigrant Services Society plans vigil for Muslim family on June 25, 8 p.m. at McGuire Lake

A first-dose mobile vaccination clinic is being held on Tuesday, June 15 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Salmon Arm fairgrounds, west entrance across from spray park. (Interior Health image)
Location for Salmon Arm’s June 15 COVID-19 mobile vaccine clinic changes slightly

Immunization clinic still at fairgrounds but people attending asked to use different entrance

Felix Haase and Jayme Saretzky staff a pop-up booth to support the Salmon Arm Pride Project on the patio of the newly reopened Wild Craft Mercantile at 121 Shuswap St. on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Wild Craft Mercantile in Salmon Arm holds grand reopening, celebrates Pride month

Store moves from Lakeshore to Shuswap, demonstrates support for Pride project

A City of Salmon Arm vacuum truck cleans out the city storm drain on Hudson Avenue in Salmon Arm Monday morning, June 14 after a crane truck blew a hydraulic line, spewing oil onto the road. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Fire trucks called to small oil spill in Salmon Arm

Traffic delayed on Hudson Avenue Monday morning after crane truck blows hydraulic line

Tim Gibson joined the Shuswap Children’s Association on June 14, 2021. He is taking over the executive director position as June Stewart is retiring on June 30, 2021. (File photo)
New executive director joins Shuswap Children’s Association

Outgoing executive director June Stewart to retire on June 30, 2021

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

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

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

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

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bitten by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Most Read