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Having been stuck outside their besieged homeland, hundreds of Palestinians have reentered Gaza, preferring to risk it all to be close to loved ones.
RAFAH — Like most Palestinians elsewhere in the world, Marwan Abu Taha has spent the past seven weeks glued to his phone screen, anxiously following the news in Gaza and talking with family in the besieged enclave.
But unlike others, Abu Taha was also desperately trying to get back inside Gaza.
The father of four, among several thousand Palestinians stranded in Egypt since the war broke out, was allowed to cross back into Gaza on Saturday amid the current, temporary ceasefire.
“It’s a risk,” Abu Taha said over the phone from his home in Gaza’s central town of Deir Al Balah. “But I wanted to come back to be with my children.”
The 56-year-old farmer was in Cairo for treatment after kidney failure, and had been scheduled to return to Gaza on Oct. 10. He spent the past seven weeks in the city of Al Arish in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Rafah crossing, heading north
The four-day truce was the first pause of fighting between Hamas and Israel in the war which was triggered by Hamas’ unprecedented raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7. That allowed the reopening of the Rafah crossing point for people to enter Gaza the first time in seven weeks.
Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority, said 760 Palestinians returned to Gaza in the first three days of the truce.
He insisted on returning to the territory.
Abu Taha said his sons back in Gaza urged him to remain in Egypt until the war ends, but he insisted on returning to the territory.
“I needed to be with them at this hard time,” he said, calling on both sides to extend the truce, and eventually reach a permanent ceasefire.
Palestinians greet each other after crossing the Rafah border coming from Egypt, hours after the start of a four-day truce.
Looking for kids, destroyed home
Ayman Haniyah was another one of those who returned to their homes in Gaza. The 40-something, who suffered a stroke that partly paralyzed him, was also in Cairo for medical treatment.
After 50 days in Al Arish, the provincial capital of Egypt’s North Sinai province, Haniyah returned to Gaza on Friday, the first day of the four-day truce.
“I don't know how things will go in Gaza. I don’t even know how I will return to my children,” Haniyah said as he was to cross into the strip.
But he insisted on returning to the enclave, especially after he learned that an Israeli airstrike destroyed his home in the southern city of Rafah, according to the London-based Asharq Al Awsat daily.
“To die in your homeland is much better than to die outside of your homeland,” the 40-something was quoted as saying.
Palestinians drive their damaged vehicle after crossing the Rafah border coming from Egypt
Still, as the Asharq Al Awsat report noted, all the returnees have mixed feelings, and fear that heavy violence may quickly return.
“Everyone is now relieved with the truce and wants to return to our homes and families, despite the unknown fate that awaits us there,” said Attiyah Abu Fadel.
“The scenes of the killing and the remains of the victims are always in my mind.”
Abu Fadel, who is in his 30s, stayed the past seven weeks in an apartment the Egyptian government designated to host stranded Palestinians. He said he didn’t know anything about his family in the southern city of Khan Younis.
“The scenes of the killing and the remains of the victims are always in my mind,” he said.
As for the future, he echoed the sentiment of other Gazans who’d watched the bloodshed from across the border, urging both Israelis and Palestinians “live in peace, away from wars.”
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