It was a tearful reunion for a father and his two children Thursday afternoon at the Calgary International Airport.
Tamer Abu Hasira, a Canadian, returned home after finally being able to escape the conflict in Gaza.
After a prolonged embrace with his children, Hasira’s mind went to the family he left back in the Middle East conflict and the dozens of extended family members he lost.
“I’m safe here. Okay. But what about my family? It’s not safe. No one is safe in Gaza Strip,” Hasira told reporters.
The Israel-Hamas conflict, now in its sixth week, was triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel in which the militants killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured some 240 men, women and children, according to Israeli officials.
Israel responded to the attack with a weeks-long air campaign and a ground invasion of northern Gaza, vowing to remove Hamas from power and crush its military capabilities.
More than 11,470 Palestinians have been killed, two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Authority. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble. The official count does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths, and Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.
Hasira’s son said he would hug his father every day now that the family is reunited and his daughter said she, too, is thinking of their family back in the Middle East.
Hasira urged Canadians to “help all the people in Gaza.”
But he had some harsh words for the Canadian government and his view of the aid response to Palestinians caught in the conflict.
“The Canadian government helped all Ukranians. And for Gaza Strip: never. Why? What’s the difference between the Gaza Strip and Ukraine?” Hasira said.
According to Global Affairs Canada, the government has been helping Canadian citizens, permanent residents and eligible family members leave the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
“The situation at the Rafah border crossing remains fluid and unpredictable. Significant delays and unexpected closures can be expected at the Rafah border,” a webpage detailing the government’s response said.
On Oct. 12, the federal government announced $10 million in funding for humanitarian assistance for the crisis in the Middle East and added another $50 million on Oct. 21.
On Oct. 27, the Canadian government announced it would match donations made to the Gaza Humanitarian Emergency Appeal, until Nov. 12, to a $10 million maximum.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, the Canadian government introduced the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET) to help get Ukrainian nationals to Canada. Of the 1.2 million applications, 922,590 were approved and 198,642 arrived under CUAET, between March 17, 2022 and October 14, 2023.
Calgary Skyview MP George Chahal, who was at the airport for Hasira’s arrival, said he’s doing what he can to help get the voices of his community back to the government. On Oct. 20, he added his name to a letter from Liberal MPs calling for a ceasefire.
“There’s other Canadians that are still stuck in Gaza and we’re going to work hard to make sure that we can get all Canadians out, but also do more about many of our Calgarians and Canadians… they’ve lost their families,” Chahal said.
“There’s many here that have lost so much, so many family members and the family members that they do have there that we can bring them here to Canada to safety — that’s what I’ll be advocating for in the days ahead.”
— with files from The Associated Press