After more than 30 days of waiting, the repatriates from the Gaza Strip, who arrived on Monday night (13) in Brasília, were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Already under the care of the Brazilian government, they reported a feeling of relief at having managed to leave the region most affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict.
In conversation with the Brazil Agencythey talked about the feeling of safety and relief they had, and about the children being able to play outdoors – moments they had not experienced since the start of the conflict, on October 7th.
However, they still fear for relatives and friends who remain in areas in the midst of war, with no prospect of leaving. The majority report having already experienced conflicts, but at a lower intensity than that experienced in the last month. It is estimated that more than 10,000 people have been killed in the war so far.
Mahmoud Abuhaluoub is one of the Palestinians to return to Brazil. In 2020, after seven years living in Brazilian territory, he went to Gaza to visit his elderly mother. In recent weeks, the trader says that the scene was one of collapsed buildings, bombs in schools and churches, which served as shelters.
“We don’t imagine it will last,” he said. “We only heard bombs, planes and attacks from above,” he said when recounting one of the most tense moments, when they had to evacuate the north of Gaza towards the south, as determined by Israel.
Regarding his first day in Brazil, Abuhaluoub relates the country to something he missed in recent weeks in Gaza. “Brazilians always say that Brazil is a land of peace. Today I understood that word.”
Young Shahed Albanna expected to turn 18, which occurred in September this year, to return to Brazil. However, there was no time to leave Gaza before the war broke out in early October. She, her younger sister and her mother lived in São Paulo and went to the enclave. Her mother was very ill and wanted to spend time with relatives.
“No one imagines being in a situation like this and suddenly being in a war”, he says.
Over the last 37 days, Shahed has shown in videos and on social media the difficulties faced by Brazilians and Palestinians in the conflict region, such as lack of water, food, energy and internet. She said that reading was one of the ways to relieve moments of tension.
Brasília-DF, 11/14/2023, While in Gaza, young repatriate Shahed Al-Banna, aged 18, made several videos showing her routine in a region at war. Photograph: Rafa Neddermeyer/Agência Brasil
“It was difficult to pass the time. I spent time reading books I like and playing with the children so they wouldn’t feel so scared,” she recalled.
The young woman is among the repatriates who will go to a shelter in the interior of São Paulo. She and 25 other people embark this Wednesday (15). “I’m calmer. But I wanted to share this happiness with those we love,” she said, referring to her friends who stayed in Gaza.
“We woke up here to the sound of birds. There, there is no such thing. There is only the bombing”, described Hasan Rabee about the first day in Brazil.
He, his wife and two daughters were the first to disembark from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) plane on Monday night.
After moving more than seven times in Khan Younes to escape the bombings, the family will return to São Paulo, where they have lived since 2014.
“We’re back and now we have to earn money to pay for the children’s bread”, says the merchant, who works with cell phone assistance.
Hasan says he has experienced previous conflicts as children, but points out that the current one is the “worst” he has ever seen. According to him, his wife and daughters were very scared by the conflict. “I went to [Gaza] and never again,” he said.