Young children of Irish-born Palestinian man prevented from leaving Gaza

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman says ‘administrative issue’ on Thursday meant very few crossings of dual or foreign nationals could take place

The young children of Irish-born Palestinian Khalid al-Astal were prevented from leaving Gaza as anticipated on Thursday afternoon due to an unspecified administrative problem.

Mr al-Astal, whose wife Ashwak Jendia died from injuries sustained in an air strike at the beginning of November, had been told by the Department of Foreign Affairs that his children Ali (4) and Sara (1) were cleared to leave via the Rafah crossing.

However, he was later updated by an Irish official that due to some issue at the border, they and others were prevented from doing so. The department confirmed the situation and said it was working to get them out.

“They were on the [exit] list for today, they were supposed to be going outside Gaza but, I don’t know, there was a problem, an administrative problem, and they sent them back,” he said on Thursday evening. “We are waiting for another confirmation for them to go.”


Mr al-Astal said the issue had also affected other nationalities desperately attempting to leave the embattled enclave. He has been unable to speak with his children who are travelling with his brother-in-law Mohammed Jendia because of the communication blackout, causing further distress.

“If the [Department of] Foreign Affairs contact me now and told me that I should tell them [his children] to go to Rafah tomorrow I don’t know how can I reach them to tell them that.”

As well as his wife Ashwak, Mr al-Astal also lost his brother and mother in the conflict. He was working in Saudi Arabia when it began and returned to Ireland to seek help for his injured wife before her death.

“I just want not to think about anything,” he said, clearly sounding exhausted, “I can’t deal with anything now”.

A spokesman for the department said an “administrative issue” on Thursday meant very few crossings of dual or foreign nationals could take place.

“This situation applied to all nationalities,” he said. “We are following up on the relevant authorities on this issue and continue to work consistently so that the remaining Irish citizens and their dependants can leave as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, an Irish-Palestinian man has said more than 40 members of his extended family have been killed in Gaza, where people were facing the “worst nightmares you can think of”.

Ahmed Alagha (33), said seven members of his family who were Irish citizens had been allowed to leave Gaza and cross into Egypt on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin, Mr Alagha said 44 members of his extended family who were living in Gaza had been killed in the conflict with Israel.

“The first set of family members who passed away it was within the the first week or ten days, that was 28 family members, recently it has moved up to 44 people,” he said.

Mr Alagha said at times he became “desensitised” to news of further relatives being killed.

“You hear this news from family members who are living outside of Gaza trying to communicate with family members who are living in Gaza and word just gets passed through the grapevine,” he said.

“It’s not just my family who are affected, the whole of Gaza region . . . At any moment in time any of them can die,” he said.

He said he hoped a ceasefire happened “sooner rather than later”. There were “horrific” images emerging from the conflict, as a result of the heavy bombing of the densely populated strip by Israel, he said.

“Everyone in Gaza is our family and friend . . . There’s dogs eating bodies on the street because they don’t have the time to bury them,” he said.

“Nowhere is really liveable, most people are in tents, all of the worst nightmares you can think of are there,” he said.

“If Hamas were hiding under Israel do you think they would adopt the same strategy of carpet bombing the place? No they wouldn’t,” he said.

Mr Alagha was speaking at a press conference ahead of a march in support of Palestine in Dublin city at 1pm on Saturday, alongside actor Liam Cunningham, Betty Purcell of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and several Opposition TDs.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times