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Akram Samour and his wife Hanan speaking at an event at Buswells Hotel in Dublin yesterday. Alamy Stock Photo
Safe passage

Dublin family plead for Government's help in getting daughter out of Gaza as bombings continue

Saja Samour can see the rubble of destroyed buildings from the house she is sheltering in in Palestine.

A DUBLIN-BASED Palestinian family has re-issued a plea for the Irish Government to help them get their 26-year-old daughter out of Gaza, as airstrikes by the Israeli military fal near the house she is sheltering in. 

Business graduate Saja Samour is currently based in Dair al-Balah in the central area of the Gaza strip.

In the last month, more buildings in her immediate area have been reduced to rubble by Israeli military strikes. Her family in Dublin are afraid for her well-being. 

She is sheltering in a house with 23 people in it. They are reported to be rationing their remaining food and eating canned produce for breakfast. Her family says that they often do not have anything to eat at all. 

Her father Akram and her mother Hanan try to contact Saja everyday but it is sometimes difficult, as she is using a small generator to charge her phone. In recent weeks, she has sent them photos of nearby buildings destroyed in bombings, that are visible from the balcony of the house she is staying in. 

The Samour family have sent a visa application for Saja to be able to come to Ireland to the Irish embassy in Tel Aviv. Their solicitor has emphasised that Saja is in an increasingly dangerous situation, and her family are growing desperate to get her out of Gaza. 

They are planning to go to the High Court to make an urgent appeal for Saja’s case. 

A group of Palestinian families permanently based in Ireland are similarly appealing to the Government to help their loved ones leave Gaza.

So far, the Irish Government has secured the safe passage of over 50 Irish citizens and dependents out of Gaza and into Egypt.

It has said that Israeli authorities have emphasised that those with Irish citizenship are to be prioritised, although not every Irish citizen in Gaza has been allowed to leave via the Rafah crossing. 

Tánaiste Micheál Martin yesterday said that Ireland is working to get Irish citizens and their dependents out of Gaza, but he stressed that the Israeli authorities have made it clear that those with citizenship will be prioritised.

Safe passage

While the Department of Justice has said it would expedite applications for long-stay visas from Palestinians who want to join their families here, Akram has claimed there has been a lack of engagement from the Government so far. 

“We don’t get to write the list,” he said. 

The situation has left Palestinian families, like the Samours who have children and relatives stuck in Gaza, fearful that they are not being considered for safe passage to Egypt, and then Ireland. 

Saja had to flee her home in northern Gaza in the aftermath of Israel declared war in response to attacks by Hamas on 7 October. She has since relocated multiple times.

As the death toll climbs higher every day, she has informed her family that the conditions she is living in have worsened in the last month. 

samour family The Samour family at a protest in Dublin last month.

Saja sent the following account of the situation over the last month. 

“On a Sunday [at the start of December] at 1 am we woke up at the sound of the bombs and the dust coming through the windows. I was terrified at that time. It was very close.  The next day I took those photos from the window of the one of the rooms in the house I am currently staying in. 

rubble in the distance Collapsed buildings are visible from the house Saja is sheltering in.

“Regarding food, we often eat canned food. We eat cans of beans every day for breakfast. The basics are not available, such as flour, eggs, and chicken.., and when they are available, they are available at very high prices, almost 5 times the original prices. Now we only have less than half a bag of flour that was originally 25 kilograms in size, and the house contains 23 people.

“Even personal hygiene matters such as shampoo and tissues have become almost non-existent. Not to mention chocolate, chips, sweets, soft drinks, or snack foods in general, these do not exist at all.

“With all this, when I think about returning to the north if a complete ceasefire is agreed upon, I feel extremely afraid of the conditions that we will face at that time, including the interruption of electricity and water supplies, cell phone signal, and sewage,” she said. 

saja Saja Samour.

Her father Akram said he and his wife Hanan, and their children Ibrahim (9), Razan (11), Abdelrahman (15), and Mohammed (20), came to Ireland a few years ago in the hope of finding “freedom and hope for the future”.

Mohammed is an Irish citizen, as he was born in Belfast when the family lived there for a number of years during the violence of the second intifada in Gaza during the 2000s. 

Akram said that he appreciates that Ireland has a more “advanced” position on the need for a ceasefire in Gaza, but added that his family is in need of “real support” to get Saja to safety. 

“The answer of the Department of Justice about bringing Saja to Ireland was strange for me,” he said.

“We are talking about a very tough, difficult, horrific situation. She is under siege. Her visa application is being treated as a normal case, and it is taking a long time to get a decision, which we need urgently. 

“My son is an Irish-born citizen, and having lived here for a number of years and getting stamp 4 permanent residency, our whole family will be citizens here soon. We want to contribute here. Both of my sons are working, my daughter is in school, and I am doing job interviews.” 

Akram’s sister passed away in Gaza last month. She had a number of disabilities and health conditions, and couldn’t get any access to healthcare due to the ongoing targeting of health facilities, and the extreme demand on services. 

He lost contact a month ago with his brother and his brother’s family. He does not know what has happened to them. 

“Every day, we wake up thinking we will hear bad news about Saja, we are asking the Irish Government please to help us while there is time,” Akram said.