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

CVSE officer checking out all the trucks before the convoy, which started at Riverlodge Recreational Centre in Kitimat BC and finished at the George Little Park in Terrace BC. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: Kitimat truck drivers rally together in honour of 215 bodies discovered at Kamloops Residential School

The convoy started at Riverlodge Recreational Centre and finished at the George Little Park

Coast Mountains School District No. 82 acting superintendent of schools, Janet Meyer, talks about policies and procedures relating to the death of Diversity Morgan, a LGBTQ+ student. (Black Press file)
School District 82 to revisit policy after transgender student’s death

Diversity’ death has created a deeper resolve for CMSD 82 to continue doing the work they started

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Outside the Kitimat RCMP police station, Diversity Morgan’s family and Kitimat RCMP come together for a pride flag-raising ceremony. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
With heavy hearts, the Kitimat RCMP hosted a pride flag ceremony to highlight the RCMP’s commitment to inclusion and diversification, as well as honouring the passing of 15-year-old transgender student, Diversity Morgan, from Kitimat.
Speeches were given by Staff Sergeant Graham Morgan, Mayor Phil Germuth, Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith, and Diversity’s father, Mike Wilson.
“We are gathered here for the pride flag ceremony, but in my mind, we’re gathered here in solidarity for anyone who’s ever experienced prejudice or discrimination. […] Today we celebrate what makes us all unique individuals,” Mayor Phil Germuth said in his speech at the pride flag ceremony.
Struggling to get the words out, Crystal Smith, Haisla Nation’s chief councillor, emphasized her condolences to Diversity’s family in her speech sharing her similar experiences as well as acknowledging the need for education around these subjects.
Diversity’s father, Mike Wilson, said he wished that everyone was there under different circumstances but was grateful to see the turnout and the support from the community.
In honour of Diversity, the Kitimat RCMP also lowered their Canadian flag to half-mast, to bring awareness for people who are experiencing discrimination and are in need of additional support.
The Kitimat RCMP also stated that they will be lowering their Canadian flag around this time every year as a visual representation of LGBTQ+.
Kitimat Save-On-Foods also donated water and snacks for the ceremony.
Kitimat RCMP host pride flag ceremony in memory of Diversity Morgan

“We’re gathered here in solidarity for anyone who’s ever experienced prejudice or discrimination”

(Haisla First Nation logo)
Haisla Nation host walk for strength and series of virtual sessions for Indigenous History Month

The purpose of the walk is to bring Haisla Nation members together and show their collective support

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

Most Read