From the news desk

South African nationals safely evacuated from Gaza arrive in South Africa

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By Ragheema Mclean

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation announced the safe arrival of 19 South African nationals after successfully evacuating Gaza and safely crossing into Egypt yesterday.

This comes after they were approved for evacuation by the Israeli authorities, granting permission for their passage into Egypt through the Rafah Crossing.

The Israeli military has intensified its airstrikes throughout central and southern Gaza. According to Palestinian media at least 16,248 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7.

The department stated:

“The South Africans were approved for evacuation into Egypt by the Israeli authorities on Sunday, 11 November 2023.”

“South Africa extends its gratitude to the government of Egypt for granting the evacuated foreign nationals’ safe passage through the Rafah Crossing into its country.”

Speaking on the VOC breakfast show on Wednesday, a relative of some of the evacuees who lived in Gaza for over two decades, Zaytoon Zoutenberg-Osmany, shared the family’s relief at their safe return to South Africa.

She noted that they arrived in South Africa yesterday afternoon and are in currently in Johannesburg, highlighting their exhaustion and the immense trauma they have endured during the brutal Israeli bombing and attacks.

“Alhamdulillah, we were very grateful that they managed to be successfully evacuated; it was quite a long struggle,” Zoutenberg-Osmany expressed.

“They are in quite a state and experiencing severe post-traumatic stress. Obviously, the events impacted them. They just need to recover.”

“It was nerve-wracking, we would wake up every day wondering if they made it through the night.”

“We felt so helpless, and wished we could do more to assist them.”

She explained the difficulties of getting in contact with them and how they wouldn’t hear from them for two or three days when the electricity and internet was cut.

“They would charge their cell-phone batteries with car batteries and all other means just to keep in touch with us.”

“It’s very to explain or understand what they went through, once they’ve recovered, I’d like for them to speak and explain their experiences themselves.”

Detailing the journey in trying to get her family back in South Africa, Zoutenberg-Osmany said they appealed on several times to South Africa governments organizations, reminding them that they have South African family in Gaza.

“When the SA government expelled the Israeli embassy, it made things a little bit more difficult, Israel didn’t want to cooperate with South Africa.”

“The situation on the ground was completely different, nobody could get in. We couldn’t just go in and get them out.”

“All entrances were blockaded or if not destroyed completely.”

“It was a really difficult period for them the last 60 days, but Algamdulilah their fate has changed.”

She further expressed some the devastating losses suffered by her relatives: “They came with nothing. Their homes are destroyed, their livelihoods are destroyed. My nephew was supposed to get married this weekend. My niece was going to graduate university in Gaza this year.”

To provide some assistance in rebuilding their lives, the family has started Back-a-Buddy campaign and are appealing to the community to assist where they can.

“We want to assist them to a point where they don’t have to move around between families. We want them to find stability and find normality again.”

She appealed to the community, saying, “It’s an appeal to the community to please assist, to open up their hearts and donate where they can.”

Click the link below to donate and support the family:

https://www.backabuddy.co.za/donate/champion/zaakirah-chotia-5775663725012721781

Photo: Supplied


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