It was 7pm when Shahed Al-Banna gave his last interview, at the Brazilian Air Base, in Brasília, this Tuesday, November 14th. The 18-year-old girl is one of 32 Brazilians and Palestinians repatriated by Brazil from Gaza.
“Someone take a photo of me being famous,” joked Shahed, in front of a dozen cameras and microphones pointed at her. The returnee became known in the news for being one of the Brazilian voices who reported on social media their daily lives under Israeli bombing.
The result of a diplomatic effort by the Brazilian government, the rescue operation was completed when the group landed in Brazil on the night of Monday, November 13th. In the morning, on Tuesday, they had a day of vaccination and social and psychological care. In the afternoon, four of them agreed to talk to the press.
Shahed declared that he will not remain calm until all Brazilians and the other part of his family who are in the Gaza Strip are evacuated. “This is my plan now and I will not remain calm until they leave there,” she said, highlighting that the other returnees also left family members in the Palestinian territory.
Read more: Lula receives Brazilians who lived through Israel’s massacre in Gaza
Lobby of the transit hotel at the Brasília Air Base, where repatriates were hosted / Camila Araujo
Operation Returning in Peace is the largest mission to remove civilians from war and conflict zones operated by the Brazilian Air Force (FAB). There were 1,477 repatriates, 1,462 of whom were Brazilians. In addition, 53 domestic animals came to the country.
The government states that repatriates will receive a CPF, SUS card and will have the right to register with the Single Registry. The intention is that the ministries of Justice, Human Rights, Social Development and Health, together with UN agencies, carry out a reception process, to meet needs and demands.
:: After rescuing Brazilians, Brazil will continue to work to end the massacre in Palestine ::
Among the group that arrived in Brazil, 22 are Brazilians, seven are Palestinians with a National Migration Registry (RNM) and another three are Palestinians who are close family members of the other members. Among them, 17 children, nine women and six men.
At the press reception, the returnees were accompanied by members of the SUS National Force, a program that carries out missions to support natural disaster situations.
Débora Noal, a psychologist specializing in disasters and climate events, guided the reporters present: it is necessary to be careful with questions that could generate triggers.
According to her, the emotional state of these people is extremely sensitive and the stabilization period can take around 30 days. “Most of the children had difficulty sleeping that night and we had a 24-hour shift to monitor them,” she said, adding that even the noise of planes flying was a cause for discomfort.
“Some children are pointing to planes in the sky and saying ‘bomb, bomb'”, reported the psychologist.
“We were waiting for who was next to die”
Mohamad Farhat is 43 years old and was repatriated with his family – his wife, who has the RNM, and their four children.
“My first country is Palestine, but now Brazil is also my country,” he said, adding that “all the people here are dealing with us in a very dignified way and that is respectable.”
He mentioned President Lula’s reception on Monday night, when the group of repatriates got off the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) plane. “We experienced a wonderful ceremony of people welcoming us. It was very positive for our feelings, and brings a sense of security in relation to our new future.”
Mohamad Farhat, repatriated Palestinian, alongside a member of the SUS National Force who accompanies him / Camila Araujo
Mohamad’s plan is to go with his family to São Paulo. He is one of 24 repatriates going to the capital of São Paulo, half of which go to relatives’ homes and the other half to a shelter. One person will go to Novo Hamburgo (RS), one to Cuiabá (MS), two to Florianópolis and four will remain in Brasília.
Still talking about the situation in Gaza, Farhat comments that there he felt as if he could die at any moment. “We have become numbers,” he said. “We were waiting for who was next to die,” he added, adding that he lost an aunt and several other “loved people” in the conflict.
“When we slept… actually, we haven’t slept in Gaza. But once we managed to stay in a house, all the time we thought that the house could be destroyed over our heads or attacked at any moment.”
The repatriation of Mohamad and the other members of the group took 12 days since the first foreigners and family members began to be allowed to leave Gaza. When it was finally published, the original list included the names of 34 people but, according to a statement from Itamaraty, two of them withdrew from repatriation and remained in Gaza.
With the operation concluded and after maintaining a moderate speech about the Israeli massacre against the Palestinian people, Lula increased his criticism of Israel, comparing the Zionist state with Hamas and condemning “acts of terrorism”.
:: Lula toughened his speech and raised his tone against Israel throughout almost 40 days of conflict in the Middle East; see statement history ::
“The state of Israel is also committing multiple acts of terrorism by failing to take into account that children and women are not at war,” the president said. “There are more than 1,500 missing children who are certainly among the rubble.”
The death toll in Gaza has surpassed 11,000 since October 7, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. Of this total, 5 thousand are children.
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Source: BdF Federal District
Editing: Flávia Quirino