Fleeing Syria to die in Gaza

AFP , Sunday 10 Aug 2014

A Palestinian woman reacts as she sits on the rubble of her destroyed house after returning to Beit Hanoun town, in the northern Gaza Strip. (Photo: REUTERS)

Abdullah Abu Shabab fled the war in Syria to shelter in Gaza, the home his Palestinian parents lost in the 1967 war. But in the end an Israeli bomb killed him.

"It was his destiny to die here," said his haggard father Hamed Abu Shabab.

It was July 30, a day that sparked world outrage when nearly 120 Palestinians were killed. More than 20 of them died during a four-hour lull when a shell exploded in a packed market in Shejaiya.

Abdullah was killed evacuating the wounded in Shejaiya, his father said.

The 21-year-old student died helping others under the very bombs he escaped in Syria, torn apart by three and a half years of civil war that has killed more than 170,000.

"I had high hopes for him, he was going to get his university degree in a month," says his father. "But he died before being able to get it."

Abu Shabab's nightmare didn't end there. Their home was also destroyed.

Now he and his three sons spend nights camped out under a pile of rubble, while his wife and four daughters stay with relatives.

Atef al-Aymawi, head of a local association representing Palestinian refugees from Syria, says 260 families fled to Gaza seeking refuge.

Syria welcomed some of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians made refugees by the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel captured the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, east Jerusalem, the Sinai and the Golan Heights.

Of the 530,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Syria 12 to 15 percent have left for neighbouring countries, says the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Atef used to live in Yarmuk, the main Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, which has been reduced to rubble in the war. He left behind a home and a textiles factory to arrive in Gaza in late 2012.

He rented a home but it too was destroyed in Israel's July offensive.

He, his wife and children were taken in by a friend, Farid Yussef, also from Syria and whose parents were made refugees when Israel was created in 1948.

"We were just starting to make a go of it in Gaza, we were in the process of building a new life. But now all our hopes are dead, we don't even have a home anymore," said Atef.

Nearly 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in one month of the Israeli offensive. Parts of the tiny enclave, smaller than Britain's Isle of Wight, lie in ruins.

Frightened by the attacks, Farid has tried several times to go back to Syria since the war in Gaza began on July 8. Each time his passage has been refused.

For the former pharmaceutical salesman, the worst thing is the seven-year blockade imposed on Gaza.

"It's the worst experience of my life, I can't stand the idea that I'm a prisoner," he said before being interrupted by his wife Suad, who says "anyway death here or death in Syria what's the difference?"

*The story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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