His bag contains first aid kits, power banks and memory cards for journalists. Awni, 34, left from The Hague for the Egyptian capital, Cairo, today, in an attempt to reach his family in Gaza from Egypt. “I can’t keep watching helplessly from Holland.”
We spoke to Awni this afternoon, before he went to the airport:
“It’s scary to think that I might lose my father in the next few hours.”
In 2016, Awni came to the Netherlands from Gaza on a scholarship. Then he got a job at a Dutch NGO. Since then he has lived in The Hague. But his entire family is still in Gaza: his father, mother, sister, brother and their children.
Three days ago, the street and building where his family lives were bombed. Awni says his brother’s wife was killed. “Her children now have to carry on without their mother, without the person they love most.”
His eight-year-old nephew remains in hospital with shards of glass behind his eyes near his brain. He added: “He needs a very specific surgery to prevent brain damage, but it is not yet clear whether that will work.” Aouni’s family is now at his uncle’s house in northern Gaza.
The once cheerful Aouni looks broken. He barely sleeps at all. “Only when my body physically collapses do I fall asleep.” He has daily contact with his parents. “As soon as I wake up, I immediately look at my phone. Every time there might be a message that my family is no longer alive. I can no longer sit here and do nothing.”
That’s why Aouni is now trying to get as close to his family as possible. he have Crowdfunding It has been set up, through which it has already raised more than 20,000 euros within one day. Aouni hopes to use the money to load a truckload of food, water and medical supplies for Palestinians in Gaza. He works with local NGOs in Egypt and Palestinian relief organizations on the ground, he writes.
The code is red
To get to the border, he has to pass through an area for which the State Department has issued a red travel warning, just like in Gaza. Red means: Do not travel. But that doesn’t stop Aouni. “I drive this road twice a year to visit my family in Gaza, and I am not afraid.”
The chance of Aouni succeeding in crossing the border seems slim. The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza has been closed for days. “But I will do everything I can to get there,” says Anwi. “I feel incredibly helpless here.”
This inability is what affects Aouni the most. “During the war between Russia and Ukraine, Ukrainian flags were everywhere. If you went to the supermarket, you could donate. But for the Palestinian people there is nothing, no aid work, no political voice. Then we can demonstrate here, but” What? Does that work? This is the only thing I can do.”
Awni had already planned a vacation and was able to take extra time off. “I receive a lot of support from my work and from friends as well. But it is politics that fails. Palestinians have been living in inhumane conditions for 75 years, but only when something happened on the Israeli side did politicians speak up.” Europe and the United States say they support Israel, but they don’t Only Israel. Rather, you support the killing of our children. We are not seen as equals.”
The State Department says it is not aware of other people wanting to travel to Gaza via Egypt.
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