Gaza: Belfast-born man confirms his two children will be evacuated

A Belfast-born man whose wife and other family members were killed in Gaza has told BBC News NI of his happiness after learning that his children will leave the Palestinian territory.

Khalid El-Estal, 30, had appealed for help reuniting with his children after the loss of his family members.

His four-year-old son Ali and one-year-old daughter Sara are now included on an evacuation list to leave Gaza.

They are due to enter Egypt via the Rafah crossing in the next day.

The children are currently situated at the crossing and will travel to Ireland with his brother-in-law, he added.

"You can't imagine how I felt, I was very happy and excited about that... I was thinking 'what should I bring for the kids?'

"I hope they will make it, if not today then please tomorrow," he said. "They have a good chance [in Ireland]."

'Years of love, gone'

Mr El-Estal was born in Belfast and attended primary school in the Botanic area while his father worked as a lecturer at Queen's University.

When he was aged eight, the family relocated to Gaza, where he met his wife, Ashwak Jendia, at university.

He told BBC News NI it was a "very long love story" with his "beautiful, talented" wife.

Israel began striking Gaza after Hamas's 7 October attacks, in which 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 hostages were taken.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 11,500 people have been killed in the territory since 7 October - of whom more than 4,500 were children.

Mr El-Estal was working in Saudi Arabia when his wife was killed along with his mother, brother, uncle and two cousins.

"Everything was going in the right path, we were expecting to come [to Ireland] together," he said of his wife. "Years of love, happiness... all of it is gone."

Mr El Estal said he is now worried for his father and brothers who remain in the Gaza Strip.

"My brothers are Irish citizens, they didn't want to come to Ireland because they [didn't] want to leave my father and mother, but now it's different.

"I'm really hoping they can figure something for my father, because he's not Irish, to join me here... I can't imagine leaving my father alone.

"How can he face all of this, and I am his eldest son? I should be with him."


On Wednesday, Tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Micheál Martin said 23 Irish citizens had crossed into Egypt from Gaza.

He said it was "very welcome news" that some families with children had successfully crossed the Rafah checkpoint.

Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTÉ, Mr Martin said there is another group of about 40 Irish citizens and dependents due to leave the war zone.

On Thursday, the tánaiste travelled to southern Israel, following a visit to Egypt on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Martin said three more Irish citizens have managed to cross into Egypt today, which is a lower number than hoped for, due to "processing delays".

He also said the Israeli foreign minister, Eli Cohen, has assured him that the majority of Irish citizens remaining in Gaza will be able to exit within the next three days.

Gaza map
Foreign passport holders are exiting Gaza via the Rafah crossing

On Wednesday evening, a motion which called for the expulsion of Israel's ambassador to Ireland was rejected in the the Dáil (Irish lower house of parliament).

Meanwhile, in the UK Parliament, MPs voted to reject a call for an immediate ceasefire.

Among the Northern Ireland's MPs, the SDLP and Alliance voted in favour and four DUP MPs who were present in the chamber voted against the move.

The DUP also voted against a separate Labour amendment which stopped short of calling for a ceasefire.

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