A group of 29 Spaniards leaves Gaza and the Government concludes the evacuation operation | International
A group of 29 citizens with Spanish passports left Gaza this Wednesday. Added to those who managed to leave the Strip last Monday and Tuesday, the number of evacuees rises to 143, which also includes relatives of the Spanish-Palestinian people. With this last departure, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs concludes this phase of the evacuation operation from the Strip. An Air Force plane is scheduled to pick up all of them in the next few hours in Cairo (Egypt) for their transfer to Spain.
Foreign Affairs admits that there may be some more citizens with Spanish nationality in the Palestinian enclave who have not wanted to leave or were not in a position to do so at this time. The Spanish Government, he alleges, does not ignore them and will facilitate their departure, which will no longer be collective but individually or in small groups, as soon as possible.
Islam Hamdan, a 32-year-old Spanish-Palestinian nutrition doctor and mother of two children, including a three-month-old daughter, was overcome with a bittersweet feeling when she received the news that she would finally be able to leave Gaza and enter Egypt last Monday, more a month after the start of Israel's military offensive on the Strip. On the one hand, she had the joy of knowing that she was a little closer to salvation, and at the same time she had the anguish of not being able to do it hand in hand with the rest of her family and the affliction of everything that was left behind. she. “There were mixed feelings, because we laughed and were happy, but at the same time we cried,” Hamdan recalls in a conversation with EL PAÍS.
Theirs is a feeling shared by many of the Spaniards and their immediate families who between Monday and Wednesday of this week have been able to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing within the framework of the evacuation operations for foreign passport holders. In the case of Spanish citizens and their relatives, they have been divided into three contingents. Assisted by the Spanish authorities, the first groups moved to a hotel in the Egyptian capital, where they waited to regroup to travel to Spain.
Between them they share traumatic experiences, panic with the beginning of the Israeli military offensive, the incessant sound of fighter planes and destruction of unusual proportions. Also hasty decisions to leave everything and leave with nothing, take refuge in any place that opened its doors, often with small children and elderly people, and the uncertainty of whether they would finally end up leaving the Strip in time.
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Kholoud Atalah, a 42-year-old academic and mother of three who arrived in Cairo early Wednesday morning as part of the second contingent of Hispanic-Palestinians to enter Egypt, explains that they had to flee home a week after the Israeli offensive began. because they lived in one of the most damaged neighborhoods in Gaza City, the capital of the Strip and the epicenter of the fighting. They initially took refuge in Deir El Balah, a town in the center of the enclave, where they shared a small room with a single bathroom among 21 people. “There is no safe place, but it was quieter than in the north [de Gaza]”, he points out.
Riad Elaila, a 71-year-old political science professor and father of three who also left Gaza on Tuesday, was forced to leave his home and leave behind his car and all his belongings in the first days of the offensive because he lived in the Yabalia refugee camp, in the extreme north of the Strip. In his case, they traveled quickly to the city of Rafah, near the Egyptian border, and were welcomed by a former student. “We have experienced a horrible situation,” he points out, “I ran away with [solo] a briefcase".
Hamdan, who along with his family was among the first people to flee from northern Gaza to Rafah, a journey that tens of thousands of people are now forced to travel on foot, notes that life in the Strip is becoming increasingly most unsustainable day. “Anything you wanted to do was a challenge. One day before leaving Rafah there was no more salt. You went to the supermarket with money and there was no salt or yeast, or any type of fuel; There is no running water, there is no drinking water. We have had to drink non-potable water to survive. You have to manage,” he says.
Overcrowding in the south of the Strip
The Spanish-Palestinian also describes increasing overcrowding in southern Gaza as Israel continues to forcibly displace citizens from the north. “You are in a war situation and everyone welcomes everyone and does what they can to help. But the houses are full and when there are threats that something could happen near a house with 100 people, where do they go? The schools are very full, there is no way for you to get in,” she says. “And there are more and more people going to Rafah, I don't know where they are going to go.”
For Spaniards and their immediate families, who did not begin receiving authorization to leave Gaza and enter Egypt until almost two weeks after evacuation operations began, the wait has meant additional tension. “The situation was stressful, because in a normal situation you sit and wait, but we were very desperate because we were in a war,” says Hamdan. When they finally received the notice that they could cross, Atalah describes “contrary emotions”: “you were happy to leave, but at the same time you were not happy to leave.” [atrás] to your family in this situation.”
Among those who spoke with this newspaper in Cairo, gratitude for the work and treatment received by the Spanish authorities in Jerusalem, with whom they have been in constant contact to coordinate their evacuation, and the members of the Spanish diplomatic mission in Cairo, dominated. Egypt, who went to the Rafah border crossing and organized their travel and stay in Cairo.
Looking to the future, plan now for the uncertainty typical of someone who has lost everything and will not be able to return soon to what they consider their home. “The situation is going to be very difficult, it is not going to be like in previous attacks and wars.” [de Israel] against the Gaza Strip; [esta vez] It's going to take a lot to get it up again," says Elaila, who, like the rest, hopes that the Spanish authorities will help them so they can start again. “Our goal is to continue with our life in Spain. But we don't have anything [allí]nor do we have anything after the war,” he points out. “We just want to live a decent life,” she says.
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