Thousands are trying to escape the attacks on the Gaza Strip. But the only way out is closed. Germans are also trapped in front of the Rafah border crossing. They feel the government has failed them.
The German-Palestinian Mazen Eldanaf has been waiting for relief news at the Rafah border crossing in the Gaza Strip for days. “Hope is dwindling day by day,” says the 61-year-old, who remained stuck in the war zone on Sunday. He went through the exit lists last week in vain. But his name and that of his wife were not there. “Now the border crossing is closed again. We don’t know when and how things will continue,” says Eldanaf, who has lived in Bonn with his wife for 43 years.
Only a few of the hundreds of Germans in the Gaza Strip have been allowed to flee to Egypt from Israel’s ongoing air strikes. The Foreign Office said that over 30 Germans were able to leave the coastal area on Friday, and before that on Wednesday it was “a low single-digit number”. More should have followed on Saturday. However, after the Israeli shelling of an ambulance, Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip, completely stopped the departure until further notice.
Visiting family becomes a nightmare
Eldanaf actually came to Gaza to visit his family, he says. As a car dealer, he can combine business with private life. They wanted to stay for a maximum of ten days. Meet his four brothers and his sister. But the family visit turned into a nightmare.
He and his wife Khitam have not slept for almost four weeks because of the Israeli bombs. “I want to get out of here,” Khitam says on the phone in a weak voice. “There is no life here, it is just death. You only smell death, you only see death, there is no life here,” says the social worker.
The worst thing for her is that her four adult children in Germany don’t know whether they will ever see their parents again. “My children can’t work, they can’t concentrate because they hear what’s happening in Gaza. Nobody knows if we’ll get out alive.”
Khitam Eldanaf and her husband have fled several times in the past few weeks, she continues. She hopes that the German government will react soon and get her out of hell. But the concern for the other family members in the Gaza Strip without a German passport would of course remain. The situation overall is shocking. “People who saved for an apartment for 30 years – with a bomb, everything was destroyed,” says Eldanaf. “More than 9,000 people dead.”
Serious allegations against the federal government
Mazen Eldanaf blames the federal government and especially Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. For years he voted for the Greens, for him a party that stood for peace. Now he is just disappointed by the lack of support when leaving the country. “Nothing happens, inquiries to the embassy remain unanswered,” says Eldanaf. His children in Germany wouldn’t get anywhere either. Nobody listens to them.
He and his family have strong roots in Germany. “We have businesses, employees, pay taxes, vote, but when it comes to saving ourselves: nothing,” says Eldanaf. He heard from Egypt that the Egyptian government was very unhappy with the German federal government’s stance in the conflict. “And this is now being carried out on our shoulders,” he said.
The Foreign Office in Berlin said that it was working “intensively” to enable more German citizens to leave the Gaza Strip. The efforts would continue.
Dangerous route to the border crossing
But the 75-year-old German-Palestinian Jamal Abdel Latif also blames the German embassy in Ramallah. “Answering an email can’t be too much in a situation like this,” complains Latif, who studied at the Technical University in Berlin in the 1980s. The only thing he heard was: “We warned that no one should drive into the area.”
Latif’s home is actually in the city of Gaza in the north of the coastal strip, he says. He fled to the south with his wife and two of his children. He now lives 25 kilometers away with relatives in the town of Dir Al-Bala. “Only temporarily,” says Latif. He really wants to leave. “As soon as our names are on the list, we head to the border crossing,” he says.
However, the path there is very dangerous. There are also regular bombing attacks in the south. “The Israelis said, flee to the south, we fled to the south and whatever happens, they continue to bomb here,” says Latif, repeatedly talking about a “mass murder.”
One problem is that his wife’s Palestinian passport has expired. “We didn’t expect this war, we didn’t know it, otherwise we would of course have tried to extend it.” He will not leave the country without his wife. He therefore sent the certified wedding certificate to the embassy, but received no response. “I can’t go to Rafah without knowing that my wife is also coming across the border.”
He doesn’t know what will happen next for him and his family. “Going back to Gaza would be our death sentence,” says Latif. Is his house still standing? He thinks so, but he heard there was an impact on his street. The window panes were shattered. But I don’t feel safe in the south either.
A few days ago, his niece sent her ten-year-old son to a store to charge his cell phone. There has been no electricity in the houses for a long time. The shop was in a high-rise building. Suddenly an Israeli bomb hit the high-rise building and it collapsed completely. “My niece’s son was just gone, just gone, all the people in the house, just gone.” That showed him once again, “we have to get out of here.”
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.