An Irish citizen who escaped Gaza with his three children yesterday has sent a message of thanks to Ireland.
Ibrahim Alagha, his wife Hamida and his children Sami, Eileen and Omar were among the 23 Irish citizens to be evacuated from Gaza through the Rafah Crossing yesterday.
It is understood the Department of Foreign Affairs has been liaising with around 40 Irish citizens in the war-torn area in recent weeks and more are expected to make the crossing today.
The family, from Blanchardstown in Dublin, have said that last night was the first time they slept without fear in 50 days.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Ibrahim said it feels “amazing” to be safe in a hotel room in Cairo.
“I was just talking to a friend and I was saying that is the biggest jump in living conditions that anyone can experience,” he said.
“One night you're sleeping in fear, you're squeezed in a small space on the floor – hungry and thirsty and with no energy and the bombing around you.
“The next day in a very nice hotel - a calm place - you know, it's a big, big difference.”
He said his children have been sick in recent weeks but are a “lot better” this morning.
“They couldn't believe that they could eat whatever they want and drink as much water as they want without any restrictions anymore – and have a nice shower,” he said.
“So, it's a strange feeling for them and for us.”
'I was crying'
Ibrahim said it was a strange feeling leaving so many family members and friends behind.
“Honestly, once the bus left Palestine, left Gaza, and went through the Egyptian gate, I was crying,” he said.
“I was crying remembering all the people that I just left behind me and how their lives are still in danger.
“Thousands of people may not make it next week. I mean, a lot of mixed feelings really on that moment.”
He said he couldn’t believe the destruction he saw as he travelled through Gaza towards the crossing.
“I saw scenes, oh my God,” he said. “I just couldn't imagine how Gaza City itself could be – I mean, we're talking now about the south side - my journey was all on the south side of Gaza - the north is, I would say, 10 to 20 times worse.”
Ibrahim said the people have Gaza have surprised him in the past with their strength in terms of rebuilding after Israeli attacks – and he hopes they will do so again.
“I know it's a bigger challenge, a more difficult war this time than the previous one, but I have big faith that we will rebuild it again and it would be looking nice as it used to be before,” he said.
In a statement this morning, The Department of Foreign Affairs said it welcomed, "the inclusion of more Irish citizens on the list for departure from Gaza today".
It said officials have remained in contact with Irish citizens in Gaza "overnight and throughout this morning" and the consular team in Cairo is at Rafah again today to "provide support and transport onwards from the border".
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