About three hundred foreigners and Palestinians with dual citizenship were able to leave the Gaza Strip. Two hundred more departures are scheduled to be allowed to cross the border in the coming hours. The Palestinian Flemish Fatna Al-Ghara also hopes for this exit scenario. But for now, she is stuck in Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City. “We will not get out of here unless the Belgian government comes to arrest us.”
“We constantly hear the sound of explosions around us. The heaviest of them causes the entire building to shake and the windows break.” Fatna Al-Ghara tells her story from Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City. She describes the conditions there as pure horror. “It is the Day of Resurrection, but over and over again.” The writer fled Gaza before Fifteen years ago, she obtained asylum in our country, and has been able to call herself Belgian since 2016. She has now returned to Gaza for the first time to visit her elderly parents.
That family visit took a dramatic turn when war broke out between Israel and Hamas. In search of safety, Al-Ghurra went with her parents to Al-Quds Hospital. She has been detained there for ten days, along with an estimated 13,000 Palestinians who have followed suit. But the security they were looking for has long since disappeared. The bombs are getting closer and living conditions are becoming more and more bad. “The hospital building is already exploding, you might hear it,” she says over the phone as the noise of children can be heard in the background. “People are sleeping everywhere. On the stairs, under the stairs, in the hallway, in the rooms where seriously injured patients lie.
Not only is there a lack of space. When we ask about the status of water and food distribution, there is a moment of silence on the other end of the line. With a lump in his throat, the banger tells us that what little water there was is now gone. “There used to be some rice and bread in recent days, but that is no longer there either. Sanitary conditions are also an increasing problem. “There is one tap here that only comes out with sea water. You can shower with that every now and then as best you can.
It therefore makes sense that Al-Ghara would want to leave the hospital as quickly as possible, which is under increasing fire. “There was contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ten days ago,” she says. He added: “Then I was told that my name was on the list of citizens to be evacuated and that they would contact me when there was news. I have not heard anything since then.”
The Foreign Ministry has already listed 85 Belgians and 90 rights holders who wish to be given the green light at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. But at the moment this permission is not yet available. The agreement that led to a list of five hundred foreigners on Wednesday only concerns citizens of a limited number of countries. Belgium was not among them.
“We did what we could do,” said Wouter Boyels, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. We have long provided a list of the names of our citizens whom we would like to see leave Gaza to the authorities managing the border. We continue to insist on obtaining permission to cross the border. But at the moment it is not there yet.” However, staff of a number of international relief organizations were allowed to cross the border. Foreign Affairs confirmed that there was one Belgian. He is said to be Matthias Kenes, head of the MSF project in the Gaza Strip. Organization Relief is unwilling or unable to confirm this news at this time.
Meanwhile, Al-Ghurra continues to wait in Al-Quds Hospital to receive the phone call that she and her family can cross the border. But even when it finally comes, it becomes one Mission: Impossible To reach the Rafah border crossing. “Under normal circumstances, it takes about an hour by car,” she says. But under these circumstances, we cannot reach the Rafah crossing.”
Al-Ghara says that stories are circulating in the hospital about taxis and passenger cars being attacked on the highway leading to Rafah. “We don’t dare leave here. My mother is eighty years old, and I don’t want her to die like this. Another family left here yesterday. They wanted to go home. But before they got there, they were bombed. They all died.”
As for language, it is clear. We won’t get out of here unless the Belgian government comes to arrest us. Why don’t they send a car that can take us safely to the border under the Belgian flag? As long as that is not the case, we must remain here, no matter how dangerous the circumstances are.
Belgian intervention in the Gaza Strip to return its citizens like Ghurra is not a possibility. Belgium does not have an embassy in Gaza and therefore there are no diplomatic personnel on site. Furthermore, there is no operational airport in Gaza. Therefore, an air evacuation, such as the one planned from Kabul in 2021, is not an option. “We cannot enter Gaza,” the State Department said. “But once our citizens are approved to cross the border, our services are ready to assist them further and to Cairo (More than 300 km from Rafah, Northern Governorate) To bring.”
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