Irish citizens who fled Gaza conflict arrive in Dublin

Emotional scenes at Dublin Airport as Irish citizens who crossed to safety at the Rafah border say they feel lucky to be back in Ireland

Gaza evacuee Ibrahim Alagha and his mother, Marwa, after his arrival at Dublin Airport from Cairo on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Irish citizens who fled Gaza in recent days arrived into Dublin Airport on Saturday afternoon and spoke of feeling “safe” and “lucky” to be back in Ireland.

There were emotional scenes at the airport as they were greeted by family and friends who carried Palestinian flags and scarves and chanted “Free, free, Palestine.”

Among those who flew in from Cairo, having crossed the Rafah border, were Ibrahim Alagha, his wife Hamida and their three children Sami (8), Eileen (4) and Omar (3), who live in Blanchardstown, west Dublin.

Saeed Adli Sadeq was greeted at Dublin Airport by his mother Jihan, cousin Asil and brother Nidal. Photograph: Conor Ó Mearáin/Collins

Saeed Adli Sadeq (21), who had been studying in Gaza, was also among the contingent and will now be returning to Co Mayo.

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“Finally I feel safe now. From what I have seen, I was afraid of getting killed, murdered by an Israeli air strike. After coming to Ireland now I feel safe and able to continue to live my life like a normal person,” he said.

“For 40 days in Gaza we had no electricity, we didn’t have a sufficient amount of food and water and supplies. It was a disaster, a catastrophe. Now I will be able to continue my life.”

Mr Sadeq, who is the son of writer and former Palestinian diplomat Adli Sadeq, said he plans to attend a therapist to help him “forget all I have seen in Gaza”.

“I saw dead bodies everywhere, air strikes everywhere,” he said.

“For a moment I thought I wouldn’t be able to get out of Gaza safely because of the pro-Irish solidarity with Palestine and Gaza ... I thought we won’t be able to make it out. I have seen people from the USA, Germany, Belgium, France, they went out and they left before us. Finally I can go home now to Co Mayo.”

Mr Sadeq added that he felt “so sorry” for family and friends that he had to leave behind in Gaza.

“They are only guilty of being Palestinian and they don’t have foreign passports, so they will stay in Gaza,” he said.

“They will not get evacuated from Gaza and I don’t know in the future if I am going to be able to see them again. My family, cousins, grandmother, they are all still in Gaza at the moment. I’m lucky, I’m happy, but at the same time I feel so sorry for them.”

Nisreen Abuowda, from Tallaght, and her daughter Sara, aged one, were also among those who arrived into Dublin.

“I’m so happy to arrive in Ireland and see my family and give them a hug,” she said.

“At the same time, I’m so sad because I left my big family in Gaza – it’s a difficult situation in Gaza, entire families are wiped out. What is happening in Gaza is genocide ... Now I’m feeling safe here in Ireland. But I’m still worried about my family in Gaza, my dad, mum, my brother, my sister.”

Ms Abuowda was welcomed by her daughter Reema, who said she was “delighted” to “have my mum and my little sister back”.

“It has been more than 40 days. We were worried, stressed and there was no connection. We didn’t know how the family were, if they were okay or not,” she said.

Ibrahim Alagha with his parents Sami and Marwa at Dublin Airport on Saturday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Mr Alagha is understood to have travelled straight from the airport to a pro-Palestine rally taking place in Dublin city centre on Saturday afternoon.

His mother Marwa and father Sami said they were “so happy” to see their family return to Ireland. Mr Alagha’s brother Abdullah said: “I’m so excited, everyone is so excited, so glad, so happy to see the whole family coming back.

“I was worried he wouldn’t make it back. The embassy was trying their best and it was taking so long, we didn’t know if they would make it.

“Everyone was so worried about them and if we were going to see them again or not.”

Meanwhile, Irish-Palestinian man Zak Hania remains trapped in Gaza, after the rest of his family left the enclave for Cairo on Friday.

Mr Hania is in Khan Younis, waiting for word from the Department of Foreign Affairs on when he might be able to leave Gaza through the Rafah Crossing. He said the rest of his family – his wife Batoul, and their Irish-born children Mazen, Ismael, Ahmed and Nour – will arrive in Dublin in the coming days.

“I am just waiting for the Department of Foreign Affairs, because they told me they are working on it. So hopefully,” he said in a WhatsApp voicenote on Saturday evening.

“I am not feeling great to be honest, I am feeling sad, because we are separated, and the kids are sad as well. Upset. They are worried about me.

“We will see what happens in the next couple of days,” he added.

Mr Hania, a researcher and translator, moved to Ireland in 1998, and lived in Castleknock, west Dublin for a period. He returned to Gaza about a decade ago.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that 24 Irish citizens and dependants were ultimately able to exit Gaza at the Rafah crossing to Egypt on Friday night, bringing to 50 the number assisted to leave in recent days.

It said that only small numbers of Irish citizens and their dependants who have expressed a wish to leave remain in Gaza, and the department is on contact with them.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist