A London, Ont. woman, Dalia Salim, expressed profound relief as her 66-year-old father successfully escaped the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday. This escape comes after the Rafah border crossing into Egypt reopened, following a two-day closure.
Salim’s father, who retired last year and was in Gaza visiting his aging mother, had made five unsuccessful attempts to leave the war-torn area before finally crossing the border with his U.S. citizen uncle. “I’m so relieved, I have the biggest weight lifted off my shoulders,” Salim shared in a phone interview. “I’m still hurting for my people and my country… but on a personal level, I’m just really glad that my dad is safe.”
The Rafah land crossing’s reopening was announced by authorities in the Gaza Strip and was shared on a Facebook page managed by the General Authority for Crossings and Borders. This development was a beacon of hope for many, including 266 Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and their family members, who had been cleared to cross as of Friday.
Global Affairs Canada, however, did not have immediate information on how many Canadians managed to make the journey on Sunday. Previously, 107 individuals with connections to Canada had successfully left Gaza through the Rafah crossing last week.
Salim’s narrative also sheds light on the complex emotions faced by those able to leave. “I know he was a little hesitant to leave because I’m sure he felt so guilty that he is the one with a privilege to get out because he has a passport, while everyone else has to endure… the hunger and the living conditions, no access to water or food,” she remarked, indicating the dire situation still faced by many in Gaza.
The ongoing conflict, which escalated on October 7 when Hamas militants entered Israel, has led to significant casualties. According to the Hamas-run health authority, over 11,000 casualties have been reported in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected international calls for a cease-fire unless it includes the release of all hostages captured by Hamas.
The fighting has notably affected Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa, with reports of heavy airstrikes and shelling in the vicinity. Israel, accused by Hamas and hospital staff of alleging a Hamas command post under the hospital without evidence, claims to have facilitated the delivery of 300 litres of fuel to the hospital. However, the location of this delivery remains unclear, and no immediate response was received from the Health Ministry and other bodies like the Red Cross.
Netanyahu holds Hamas responsible for any civilian harm, citing their operation in densely populated residential areas and accusing them of using civilians as human shields. The situation remains tense, with international eyes closely monitoring the evolving crisis and the humanitarian impact on the residents of Gaza.