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Screengrab from a video taken by Ibrahim Alagha showing damage caused by an Israeli strike in Khan Yunis in south Gaza Ibrahim Alagha
Gaza

Irish father-of-three in Gaza says he and his family are 'trapped in this war'

Ibrahim Alagha and his family had planned to return from Gaza around this time, but war has ‘trapped’ them in the region.

AN IRISH CITIZEN trapped in Gaza has said Israel is applying “every kind of punishment that you can think of” on the besieged region.

Ibrahim Alagha, his wife, and three children visited Gaza during the summer to see their family and Ibrahim told The Journal that they now find themselves “trapped in this war”.

Speaking to The Journal, Alagha explained that his father came to Ireland when he was very young.

“He’s a medical doctor and he came to Ireland for his studies and all my siblings were born in Ireland and are Irish citizens,” said Alagha.

“Then there was a war in 2008 in Gaza, and about that time the Irish embassy evacuated all of us.

“I went to Ireland and I completed my Master’s there, found a job, and from there I became an Irish citizen, established my family there and I’m well connected now in Ireland.”

Alagha and his wife both have family in Gaza and he told The Journal that “getting in and out of Gaza has always been very difficult”.

“Our strategy was that we will go less frequently, but whenever we go, we make sure to go as long as possible,” explained Alagha.

“My son Sammy, he’s eight years old, this is only his second time coming here.

“I like to stay here as much as possible so my children would get the culture, the tradition, the language, the connection to the family here.

“I came in July and I was planning to go back around this time of the year, but unfortunately we are trapped in this war.”

Bombing in the south

When Israel ordered civilians to leave northern Gaza and head for the south, Alagha and his family fled their apartment in Gaza City to move in with his parents in the south of the Gaza Strip, in the city of Khan Yunis.

Alagha told The Journal that his apartment complex in Gaza City has since been targeted in Israeli strikes and “is now completely gone”.

“I’m now staying at my parents’ house in the south,” said Alagha.

“A lot of friends and family, extended family and neighbours, have asked to join us.

“These are all people who have asked to come shelter with us, so we have a huge number of people in our house and it’s a fight to provide water, food and energy.

“It’s a huge challenge every single morning.”

Alagha told The Journal that while the south is “supposed to be the safe place that everyone should go to, that’s not the case.”

He said that on average, 15-20 missiles are striking the area each day. 

The health ministry in Gaza today said that an Israeli strike has killed 14 Palestinians who were fleeing from the north to the south.

“The number of people that are dying here is unbelievable and I can’t imagine how much worse it is in the north side of Gaza. It’s a lot worse over there,” said Alagha.

Alagha estimated that the population of Khan Yunis has tripled due to the numbers arriving from the north.

In a statement today, the health ministry in the Gaza Strip said the death toll since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas has reached 9,227.

The ministry said 3,826 children and 2,405 women were among the dead.

Israeli officials said around 1,400 people were killed in Israel when Hamas militants crossed from Gaza and attacked border communities and military posts on 7 October.

‘Hospitals collapsing’

Alagha also said that people are “suffering from a lack of medical supplies” and warned that “hospitals are completely collapsing”.

“They ran out of energy,” said Alagha, “and we are experiencing a severe shortage of water and food, power resources. Every kind of punishment that you can think is being applied to us here.”

On Wednesday, Doctors Without Border said that a fuel shortage had resulted in the only public hospital for cancer patients in Gaza being closed.

ActionAid Ireland also warned that two of northern Gaza’s main hospitals, one of which is treating 42 newborn babies in incubators, are hours away from shutting down due to a lack of fuel.

As of Wednesday, 16 out of 35 hospitals in Gaza were out of service due to bombardment or lack of fuel.

Internet and phone communications were cut off completely on two occasions over the past week as Israel bombarded the territory, but have since been restored, though with some intermittent issues.

khan-yunis-palestinian-territories-03rd-nov-2023-palestinians-search-for-survivors-and-victims-following-an-israeli-air-strike-on-a-building-in-khan-yunis-in-the-southern-gaza-strip-credit-moham Palestinians today search for survivors and victims following an Israeli air strike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“Usually, when the communications get cut off completely, that is a sign that Israel is going to intensify its bombing,” Alagha told The Journal.

“There’s always this relationship, when everything is cut off you will see that there’s a lot of things going on and a lot of people get killed.

“Those are all results that you will see when the communication is cut off.

“You also have the fear that if anything bad happens to you, you won’t be able to call for help or let people know that you need support.

“So this is a really scary moment when you see communication being cut off.”

Irish stance

During a visit to Rome last month, President Michael D Higgins said Israel was reducing humanitarian law to “tatters” and remarked that Israel risked falling into the same “category” as Hamas with its actions.

Today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that some of Israel’s actions in Gaza were “something more approaching revenge”.

Alagha told The Journal that he feels Ireland’s position on the conflict “has always been one of the best in the western world”.

He added: “As a Palestinian living in Ireland, I always feel comfortable. I’d say that’s due to the same struggle that we have, our history and all of that.

“I have friends that live in other parts of Europe and they don’t feel as comfortable as I do in Ireland.

“But the problem is, despite that good position, Ireland is not a big country, it doesn’t have that much influence to change stuff, but a voice in the right direction is better than nothing.”

For the past three days, some foreigners and dual nationals have been able to flee Gaza.

However, no Irish citizens have been included in these groups and the Department of Foreign Affairs today confirmed to The Journal that no Irish citizens are included in today’s list.

khan-yunis-palestinian-territories-03rd-nov-2023-a-palestinian-man-inspects-the-damaged-home-of-the-palestine-tv-journalist-muhammad-abu-hatab-who-was-killed-along-with-his-family-members-during Image taken today of a damaged building Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, the city where Ibrahim Alagha and his family currently are. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The spokesperson added: “The evacuations are being managed country by country on a phased basis. It will take some time for this process to be completed.

“Irish citizens are not included in today’s list, but we continue to urgently seek to have Irish citizens included on the list in the coming days.

“Our Embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv are in regular communication with the authorities in Egypt and Israel. We also remain in ongoing communication with Irish citizens on the ground.”

Alagha said that he is receiving “at least a message a day from the Department of Foreign Affairs”.

“The message just gives an update, and the update is the same content every day – we’re trying, we’re hoping in the very near future (to evacuate you). But it is sent every day and that’s nice.”

‘Can barely find anything to eat’

There have been calls for a “humanitarian pause” in the conflict to allow aid to more freely enter Gaza.

During a visit to Israel today, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had discussed the potential for a humanitarian pause with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But Alagha told The Journal that “aid is meaningless if we don’t get fuel”.

“If we have fuel, we will be able to extract our own water, we will be able to generate electricity by generators,” said Alagha.

“Without the fuel, everything is meaningless.”

He explained that he lives close to a wheat mill, where workers have told him that there is a lot of wheat but “no energy for the mill to turn it into the wheat that we cook”.

The Israeli Defence Force today claimed that it has evidence that Hamas is “stealing fuel from Gazan civilians and using it for terror”.

Alagha added that he estimates the total number of aid trucks that have arrived in Gaza since the beginning of the war to be at around 300-400 trucks.

“To put that in context,” said Alagha, “before the war Gaza used to take in around 500-600 trucks of goods per day.

“So you’re talking about the supply of a single day, over the span of a month, that’s nothing.”

He also told The Journal that severe shortages have limited him and his family to a single meal a day.

“You can barely find anything to eat and we don’t have good water,” said Alagha.

“The water that we’re using is extremely bad quality.  It needs filtration but we don’t have resources to filter the water.”

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