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Tuesday May 28, 2024

Gazan workers stranded in Israel-occupied West Bank amid escalating conflict

They are in unfamiliar place, far from their war-torn homes, while their families remain under Israeli bombing, leaving them feeling fear and helplessness

By Web Desk
October 11, 2023
Palestinians from Gaza stranded in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, follow the news in a hotel room in Ramallah.AFP
Palestinians from Gaza stranded in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, follow the news in a hotel room in Ramallah.AFP

Amid the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, numerous Gazan workers who were employed in Israel have found themselves stranded in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. 

They are in an unfamiliar place, far from their war-torn homes, while their families remain under Israeli bombing, leaving them feeling fear and helplessness.

One of these workers, Abderrahman Balata, a 42-year-old electrician, decided to leave his job in Tel Aviv, fearing retaliation. With three other workers, he left Israel in a taxi, heading for the West Bank. 

Gaza, their homeland, is under a total Israeli siege, making it impossible to return.

In the governorate building of Ramallah and Al-Bireh in the West Bank, dozens of workers from Gaza waited to be relocated to temporary housing. Governor Laila Ghannam said, "They are our people, and we cannot abandon them in these exceptional circumstances. They should at least have the basic necessities of life."

Many workers refused to speak to the media, fearing the loss of their work permits, while others shared their stories. 

Bassem Katarana, 41, learned that his son Suhail, 23, had been "martyred" in an air raid on the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza.

Katarana recounted how the Israeli army raided his workplace in the town of Ghadira while he was sleeping. They confiscated his phone and papers, took his fingerprints, returned his papers, and left him at a checkpoint on the road to Ramallah. 

"My wife is stranded in Arish (Egypt). I hope we get to see my son before he is buried," Katarana said.

The conflict has left these workers in dire circumstances. Israel has blockaded Gaza since 2007, leading to high unemployment rates and making it extremely challenging for the workers to return to their homeland.

The Palestinian Labour Office reported the expulsion of tens of Palestinian workers from their workplaces in Israel since the beginning of the fighting. 

Labour official Karim Mardawi said, "On Saturday, we started getting large numbers of workers at checkpoints who were leaving Israel."

These workers were abruptly relocated, sometimes without adequate compensation or support. Jawad, 43, described how his employer sent him to the West Bank without giving any money. When they requested their wages, they faced threats from their employer.

Jawad's journey took him through checkpoints and regions that have witnessed recent violence, adding to their distress. He spoke of the humiliation and longing to return to his family in Gaza, even if it meant sharing their fate. 

"It's better if I'm there with them so we can die together," he said.

As the conflict continues, the plight of these Gazan workers remains a harrowing consequence of the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas.