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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation

‘We went through hell’: Palestinian dual citizens hoping to leave Gaza

Rafah, Gaza – Nineteen-year-old Yousif Abu Shaaban and four immediate family members had been waiting for days for their evacuation from the besieged Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

An American passport holder, Abu Shaaban was told by officials from the United States consulate that he and his family were eligible to leave the strip. The family was staying at a school near the Rafah crossing, seeking a way out of the enclave away from Israel’s relentless bombing campaign that began on October 7.

US officials had advised Gaza’s Palestinian American dual citizens — who number between 500 and 600 — to move closer to the crossing for possible safe passage into Egypt.

Residents were told they had a five-hour window last Saturday to evacuate, but by the end of the day, no one made it through. A week later, they remain in limbo, unsure of when they will be able to leave — even as Israel’s bombing continues, and a ground invasion of Gaza looms.

On October 21, US officials said they had received information that the crossing could be opened to allow dual citizens to leave — as the first aid trucks from Egypt entered Gaza.

But it’s already too late for Abu Shaaban and his family: The delay in evacuations cost his 14-year-old sister’s life.

On Thursday, after three days at the school, the family returned home to Gaza City to grab a few more of their belongings.

“It became late and we decided to sleep in the house and return to Rafah the next morning. Suddenly, we heard shelling. We went to a room on the ground floor. It was not long before our metal front door was bombed inwards, and the shelling was taking place at our doorstep.”

“My sister was martyred. Who will bring her back to me?” Abu Shaaban, who also sustained injuries from shrapnel to his face, told Al Jazeera from where the family’s home is located.

His 44-year-old father, who is blind, was severely injured in his arm as a result of the shelling that took place at 11pm (20:00 GMT) at night. “I am the only one sustaining my father financially. He does not move without me. He is blind, and now his entire arm is gone.”

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