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Plymouth family escapes Gaza after a month of fighting between Israel and Hamas
Plymouth family escapes Gaza after a month of fighting between Israel and Hamas
Plymouth family escapes Gaza after a month of fighting between Israel and Hamas

Published on: 11/16/2023


BOSTON − A Plymouth family trapped in Gaza for nearly a month while the Israel-Hamas war raged around them has returned home safely.

"It's great to be home. Home, sweet home," Hazem Shafai, of Plymouth, said after arriving in Boston, WCVB reported.

Hazem Shafai, his wife, Sanaa Shafai, and their three children − ages 2, 10 and 13 − were on an extended visit to Gaza prior to the war. The couple wanted their children to get to know their extended family and learn the culture, and they planned to stay in Gaza for a year.

The war between Israel and Hamas militants began Oct. 7, and the family spent the next month trying to get out of the region. They went to the border crossing seven times before finally making it out.

On Nov. 4, Hazem and Sanaa Shafai were granted permission to cross the border in Rafah and enter Egypt, but their children were not. The problem was not rectified until two days later.

"The State Department did a great job of putting our name on a crisis list. However, some names were dropped," Hazem Shafai said.

The family finally escaped Gaza on Nov. 6.

"Crossing the border, also, it's not an easy thing," Shafai told reporters at Logan Airport. "We got there to the border at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and we got out the Egyptian side by midnight. We took a ride, the State Department provided a ride for us, to Cairo, and it took us 12 hours where it should've taken 6 hours at the most."

He also told reporters that the family's youngest child was sick and could not obtain medical help while in Gaza.

"I had to wait until I got to Cairo to get my kid, pretty much, checked out," he said. "He's doing a lot better. Basically, the labs came out as he had some infection and lack of nutrition because he was pretty much sick, not holding anything in his body."

"We thank God for everything that we had. We're here. We're, basically, praying for the people in Gaza."

Shafai said he bought an apartment when he arrived in Gaza, but, like other homes belonging to members of his family, it was destroyed in the war. While the Shafai family is glad to be home, he said it is not a joyous homecoming because of the family and friends they had to leave behind.

"People are actually suffering by the minute, not by the day, by the minute. Fresh water is no longer available. Fuel is no longer available. Even food," he said.

Another Massachusetts family that was also trapped in Gaza when the war began returned home to Medway last week.

Fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants in northern Gaza caused another 200,000 people to flee south in the past 10 days, the U.N. humanitarian office said Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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