Mahmud Hams Agence France-Presse Men stand amid the debris and destruction that litter a street in the Jabalia Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza City.
A Canadian woman stuck in Gaza says she fears she will die at any moment as Israeli warplanes drop bombs around her in the isolated Palestinian territory, and she begs Ottawa for help.
“Please, please, please help us,” Mississauga, Ont., resident Khloud Fayyad pleaded through tears as she spoke on the phone from Khan Yunis, a town in the southern Gaza Strip.
With the sound of bomb explosions audible in the background, the 60-year-old mother of three paused and said she could hear an Israeli warplane flying.
“They can fall anywhere, anytime. I'm very scared. I really need help. Everything is destroyed around us. All. »
Fayyad said she left her three sons in Mississauga to travel to Gaza to visit her ailing 85-year-old father. This was a week before Israel began its massive bombardment of the territory in retaliation for a deadly attack by Hamas militants last weekend, killing Israeli soldiers and civilians, including children.
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Hamas said the attack was in retaliation for the deteriorating conditions Palestinians face under the Israeli occupation. The militants and another Gaza-based group, called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, claimed to be holding at least 150 hostages, including soldiers and civilians.
Fayyad told The Canadian Press she narrowly escaped Israeli strikes, but three of her cousins were killed.
When the war began, Ms. Fayyad says she called the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv to report that she was a citizen stuck in Gaza. They took her number and promised to call her back, but did not, she said.
The embassy also told her to call a national emergency line. United Nations, but no one picked up, she said.
Like thousands of others in the territory, which is home to about 2.3 million Palestinians, Ms. Fayyad said she had sought refuge in a school 10 minutes from her family's home.
She said she comes home once a day, to have a small piece of bread and a sip of water with her family — her only meal of the day — before returning to school, which does not has no running water or food, or electricity.
She described seeing injured people and dead bodies among the collapsed and bombed buildings around her.
“We sleep on the floor in the school. Last night it rained so the ground was wet. »
Msllam Fayadh, Ms. Fayyad's 30-year-old son in Mississauga, said he is constantly on the phone with his mother, making sure she is OK .
“Every second I’m not sure if she’s going to be alive. Then I get a text message: 'Oh, she's alive now,'” he said in a telephone interview.
“I talk to her for five minutes. I hear bombs, bombs, bombs, and she turns off the phone. You can't even hear it clearly. I'm very scared, I'm very frustrated. My state of mind is no longer the same, he said. The whole city is shaking. »
The death toll in Gaza rose to 1,200 as of Thursday morning, including at least 326 children and 171 women, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. The fighting has already left at least 2,600 dead on both sides.
About 70 Canadians are stuck in the Gaza Strip and have requested help, federal government officials said Wednesday, but the Canadian government has no way to reach them without a humanitarian corridor.
The only remaining access point with Egypt was closed on Tuesday, after airstrikes near the border crossing, which is the only crossing out of Gaza that does not lead to Israel.
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Ottawa has taken the highly unusual step of offering military flights to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families seeking to leave Israel, even though Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport is still open.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Wednesday that the government considered it necessary to intervene because many commercial flights have been canceled or delayed. A Royal Canadian Air Force plane left Tel Aviv on Thursday with 130 people on board.
Ms. Fayadh's son said he was frustrated that Canada had developed an emergency plan to help the population on the Israeli side, but people in Gaza remain trapped.
“I like how they are moving quickly, but it doesn't seem like they have a plan for the people in Gaza “, he said.
“And Gaza? I want to know when, if ever, they plan to evacuate Canadians from Gaza. Everyone is on top of each other now in schools because there are no safe areas in Gaza. »
“We just remain hopeful and cross our fingers that things don't get worse,” he said.
From Gaza, Ms. Fayyad said that she desperately needs help.
“We are human,” she said. There is no difference between Palestinian, Israeli and Canadian humans. »