In Egypt, Palestinian evacuees from Gaza dwell within the shadows | EUROtoday

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CAIRO — When Israel launched its conflict towards Hamas, Cairo was adamant: It wouldn’t settle for Palestinian refugees. Yet greater than 115,000 Gazans have crossed into Egypt since October, the Palestinian Authority’s embassy right here estimates.

Most stay in limbo, with no authorized standing and nowhere else to go. They are members of a brand new diaspora of Palestinians, a individuals already haunted by recollections of displacement.

While a number of thousand sick and wounded have been handled in Egyptian hospitals, the overwhelming majority of evacuees got here with the assistance of international embassies or through Hala Consulting and Tourism — an Egyptian firm reportedly linked to state safety companies that fees a hefty “coordination” charge to assist Palestinians escape.

Once in Egypt, nonmedical evacuees have largely been left to fend for themselves. Tens of hundreds have illegally overstayed their 45-day vacationer visas, making them ineligible for public training, well being care and different companies.

The U.N. company liable for Palestinian refugees doesn’t cowl these in Egypt. And the United Nations’ broader refugee company stated it could’t assist new arrivals as a result of Cairo doesn’t acknowledge its mandate for Palestinians.

A spokesman for Egypt’s international press heart declined to remark. Egyptian officers have beforehand denied authorities involvement with Hala and stated they don’t condone charging Palestinians searching for to go away Gaza.

Washington Post reporters visited displaced Gazans at their houses and workplaces round Cairo, the place they’ve discovered sanctuary and a measure of calm, however are unable to construct a future.

Papers are every thing for Palestinians, figuring out the place they will dwell, work, journey and procure companies.

For a 42-year-old mom of six daughters, who had moved to Gaza when she married, her Jordanian passport could have been the distinction between life and demise.

In December, after the household endured a harrowing journey to southern Gaza, the lady obtained a name. Her title was on the record to evacuate to Egypt, the Jordanian official stated. Her daughters’ names weren’t.

The girl spoke to The Post on the situation of anonymity as a result of she was not approved by her employer to talk publicly.

Jordanian girls can’t go their nationality all the way down to their kids; all six of the lady’s daughters maintain solely Palestinian passports, severely limiting the place they will go. At the Rafah border crossing, she pleaded with Egyptian officers to let her daughters via. After hours of ready, customs brokers ushered them throughout.

Her husband, who works in a hospital, stayed behind.

The girl spent her first month in Cairo attempting to safe permission to journey to Jordan. But the nation already hosts greater than 2 million Palestinian refugees and gained’t settle for these fleeing this conflict.

“We are stuck here in Egypt,” she stated.

The girl took her daughters to Alexandria for the spring, hoping the sight of the ocean would ease their homesickness. Without Egyptian residency, she has been unable to search out secure work.

In May, the household moved to a quiet desert suburb an hour from downtown Cairo. Her youthful daughters, barred from enrolling in Egyptian faculties, have tuned in nearly to school rooms in Ramallah, via a program arrange by the Palestinian Authority’s embassy.

But the ladies missed months of instruction due to the conflict and are struggling to catch up. Math, as soon as the favourite topic of Batoul, 15, has develop into a supply of frustration.

“The people here are so kind to us. When they know that we are from Palestine, specifically from Gaza, sometimes they won’t let us pay” for espresso, taxis, treats, Batoul stated. But it’s a “new life — it’s hard.”

Her mom is attempting to assist the ladies modify.

“We are very connected to [Egyptians]and we love them,” she stated. “But they need to do much, much more.”

On a current Monday night, El-Khozondar falafel restaurant was filled with Gazans in search of a style of house. Waiters carried trays piled with salads, falafel and fatteh — a Palestinian dish of pita bread, chickpeas and meat.

Majid El-Khozondar, 60, started planning to open a Cairo department of his well-known restaurant chain even earlier than he left Gaza, whereas sheltering along with his kids and grandchildren in tents over the winter. They had been displaced a number of occasions and had been almost killed in an Israeli airstrike.

All three of his eating places in Gaza had been destroyed by the preventing — as was the five-story home he had constructed along with his life financial savings in 2021. But the household — and model — had survived conflict and displacement earlier than: Majid’s grandfather, who based the flagship falafel store in Jaffa, opened the primary department in Gaza after he was expelled in the course of the creation of Israel in 1948, an occasion Palestinians name the Nakba, or “catastrophe.”

After paying $25,000 to Hala, Majid crossed the border to Egypt with two of his sons, their wives and a younger grandchild in February. Another son and his Egyptian spouse had already left Gaza.

He opened the falafel store in Nasr City, the japanese Cairo neighborhood the place many Gazans have ended up.

Most of his clients and employees are displaced Palestinians, for whom the restaurant has develop into a group heart.

“Some people come here just to meet up. Some people spend too much time at a table — it’s a problem for business,” he stated with a rueful smile.

Majid sends his earnings to the remainder of his household trapped in Gaza. He nonetheless hopes he can deliver them to security. But ultimately, he stated, he’d wish to return house.

“I love Egypt. … I used to spend half the year in Egypt,” he stated. “But I can’t replace Palestine.”

Mosab Abu Toha, 31, is aware of he is likely one of the fortunate ones. His stature as a poet — he holds an MFA from Syracuse University and gained an American Book Award final 12 months — meant the worldwide literati rallied to his assist when he was detained by the Israel Defense Forces as he tried to flee northern Gaza along with his younger household in November.

Two weeks after his launch, they had been capable of cross into Egypt — a departure aided by his son Mostafa’s U.S. citizenship. Abu Toha, spouse Maram and youngsters Yazzan, 8, Yaffa, 7, and Mostafa, 4, stayed with pals earlier than shifting into an ethereal condo offered by the American University in Cairo — a part of Abu Toha’s writing residency there within the spring.

Abu Toha taught a poetry course and savored the quiet area to put in writing. His subsequent assortment is to be revealed on Oct. 29 — virtually a 12 months to the day since an Israeli airstrike destroyed his house. He calls it a response to the lack of his library.

“Poetry for me is a poetry of witness,” Abu Toha stated, holding a replica of his first assortment, the one e-book he introduced with him from Gaza.

The kids made Egyptian pals. Yazzan, a quiet boy with darkish hair, stopped asking whether or not his uncles and aunts again in Gaza are nonetheless alive. On a day in early June, Yaffa sang a French music she had discovered on the non-public worldwide faculty the place the youngsters had been enrolled. But Mostafa, the redhead, nonetheless wakes up in the midst of the night time, crying and pointing at one thing his dad and mom can’t see.

Even with help from pals and the college, life in Egypt hasn’t been straightforward, Abu Toha stated. He hasn’t been capable of get residency. The non-public faculty price almost $6,000. Applying for visas to journey overseas was a nightmare.

“Whenever you talk to people here in Egypt, they talk about loving Gazans. When it comes to bureaucracy, you are nothing, you are alien,” he stated.

His incapacity to guard his father and siblings nonetheless in Gaza — even along with his worldwide contacts — haunted him, Abu Toha stated.

Unable to remain in Egypt, the household is headed again to Syracuse, the place Abu Toha secured a professorship. He plans to offer readings of his upcoming e-book within the United States.

“The role of poetry is to document the suffering and the misery of the human experience,” he stated, within the hope it “will not be repeated.”

Mohammad Sabbah, 44, felt suffocated in Gaza effectively earlier than the conflict.

After 2007, when Hamas took over the strip, “life in Gaza was not a life,” he stated. Electricity was sporadic, poverty was rampant, freedoms had been restricted.

Sabbah labored as a researcher for B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, for almost 20 years. He rushed to the scenes of Israeli airstrikes in earlier wars to doc civilian deaths, and shined a lightweight on abuses underneath Hamas, which arrested him in 2012.

He’d thought of leaving Gaza earlier than, however household ties and a dedication to his work — “my baby,” he known as it — saved him there.

But after the Hamas-led assaults on Oct. 7, he stated, Israeli forces “want blood, they want revenge, they want to teach people a lesson.”

As Israeli troops started to wind down floor operations in central Gaza in February, Sabbah knew that Rafah, the place he was sheltering along with his spouse and 4 kids, could be subsequent.

With assist from a cousin in Egypt, he paid $22,500 to register his household with Hala in early March. He spent his final night time in Gaza along with his 82-year-old mom, a diabetic with respiration difficulties.

“She wasn’t happy I was leaving,” he stated.

With a number of garments, some olive oil and an electrical bread oven, the household crossed into Egypt in April. Their bus dropped them off in Nasr City, and Sabbah took his spouse and youngsters to the residential quarters of the Palestine Hospital. He didn’t know the place else to go.

Through phrase of mouth, he quickly discovered an condo. Rent in Egypt is dear, he stated; landlords “see us like a bag of money.”

In June, Sabbah discovered through WhatsApp that his mom had died, having fallen sick when she was displaced by Israel’s invasion of Rafah. He hasn’t been capable of get in contact along with his siblings since.

In Gaza, “we lived through an emergency situation,” Sabbah stated. It nonetheless seems like that in Egypt.

“Everything is closing in on us.”

Heba Farouk Mahfouz in Cairo contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/06/29/egypt-palestinians-gaza-war-refugees/