An Irish family that was evacuated safely from Gaza on Wednesday, November 15 says they are "happy, relieved, and sad, all at the same time" after making the journey across the Rafah Crossing into Egypt.
Ibrahim Alagha, a native of Gaza who has been an Irish citizen for about 15 years, shared a video with Virgin Media News recounting his and his family's journey from Gaza to Cairo.
"Yesterday was a very difficult and long, long day," Ibrahim said in the video.
"It started at 7 am in the morning at the Palestinian border. The border actually opened at 9. Finished at 6 pm on the Egyptian side.
"Very strict process, a lot of paperwork.
"But to be honest the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] had some staff that came from the Embassy in Cairo. They were extremely helpful. They made at least the process a bit easier.
"Even the trip from the border to Cairo was also very difficult. There was one checkpoint we stayed there for around two to three hours, just at one checkpoint.
"Anyway, we are now in Cairo. We're very happy. The children are having their breakfast now.
"It's a very strange feeling that they can eat and drink as much as they want today.
"So all good news."
“The children are having their breakfast now. It’s a very strange feeling that they can eat and drink as much as they want today.”November 16, 2023
Ibrahim Alagha, his wife Hamida, and their three young, Irish-born children Sami, Eileen, and Omar were among the 23 Irish citizens and their relatives who were evacuated safely into Egypt on Wednesday.
Ibrahim and Hamida had taken their three children to visit Gaza for an extended holiday to spend time with their relatives and learn more about their culture. They were visiting family in Gaza when Israel launched retaliatory strikes following an unprecedented Hamas attack in southern Israel on October 7.
Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing on November 1 to allow foreigners and people with dual citizenship to leave Gaza, but Irish citizens were not included on a list of those able to leave the region until Wednesday.
News broke late on Tuesday night in Ireland that Ibrahim and his family were on the list to evacuate on Wednesday morning.
Speaking from Cairo, Ibrahim told The Journal on Thursday that he and his family were not able to sleep "from happiness and from the good news."
He added: "I knew that not all Irish citizens had made it out on that day, so we were very delighted we were on that list."
He added that his family reached the border following an eight-hour car journey and said they began moving through the Rafah Crossing after queuing for more than three hours.
Ibahim described the border process as "very lengthy" and said it was almost 12 hours before his family finally made it through on the other side.
He told The Journal that his family has now enjoyed their "first night in 50 days without fear" after moving across the border, but noted how "strange" it was to finally be comfortable after "sleeping in darkness and fear."
He added that he also felt sadness for the people in Gaza that he has left behind.
In a separate interview with the Irish Independent, Ibrahim said his family is "so thankful" to be safe.
"We have so many emotions. My three young children are exhausted. We are so thankful that we are safe now," Ibrahim said.
"Our children are all sick, they need proper rest. We will not have to worry about where out next meal is coming from.
"At the same time, we have left behind a lot of family and friends. So there is a lot of sadness with that, our people who remain in Gaza.
"We are leaving behind so many memories. Because if we ever return, it will never be the same again."
After 40 days of pure terror, my relatives have finally exited Gaza and are now in Egypt. Ibrahim wants to thank Ireland for their help in getting them out. The poor children, my heart 💔. pic.twitter.com/m5xAbJ58Xn— Yara (@arayirl) November 16, 2023
Meanwhile, two children of an Irish-Palestinian man who lives in Co Kildare were included on a list of Irish citizens permitted to leave Gaza on Thursday, November 16.
Khalid El Estal's four-year-old daughter Ali and his one-year-old daughter Sara will travel to Ireland with El Estal's brother-in-law, who has an Irish visa.
The two children were in Gaza with their mother Ashwak, who was killed during Israeli strikes last month.
El Estal told RTÉ's Morning Ireland: "I am really excited.
"I want to take care of them. That is the will of my wife.
"I hope they can be safe, you know, between traveling."
El Estal added that he can feel his wife with him "all the time" since her death last month.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin is due to meet with Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Thursday to "stress the urgency of getting all of our citizens out as quick as we possibly can."
"We will work tirelessly to ensure that all Irish citizens that want to leave Gaza can do so as soon as possible," Martin said.