Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to the two-time refugee at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Gaza’s Al-Nasr district, which was doubling up as a refugee center. The Wadiyehs are one of approximately 170 Syrian families of Palestinian origin who arrived in Gaza in early 2013. The Syrian refugee and his family fled the Al-Sabinah refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus to start a new life in Gaza, only to find that life now under threat.
“We had no choice but to escape Syria due to the civil war,” Wadiyeh told Asharq Al-Awsat. “We managed to leave the Al-Sabinah refugee camp after one of my sons was injured in a mortar attack. We fled to Lebanon, then Egypt, and finally reached Gaza,”
“We came to Gaza in an attempt to secure our future, particularly with one region after another in Syria falling victim to unrest. I told my family that life under siege in Gaza would be better than hell in Syria,” he added.
Wadiyeh, who settled in the Shejaia area east of Gaza City, did not imagine that bombings would follow him and his family from Syria to Gaza. “We miraculously survived an Israeli air strike in Shejaia which struck our building,” he said.
“Due to the ferocity of the bombardment in the area, my family and I fled just moments after shells began falling close to our building,” he added. “My wife and I gathered up our children in our arms and did not look back. We walked through scenes of terrible destruction until we reached a safe area. I prostrated myself on the ground in the middle of the street and thanked God for saving my family and I once more from bombardment.”
He affirmed that hundreds of Palestinian refugees sought refuge at the UNRWA school in Al-Nasr district, with thousands more Palestinians based in Shejaia being forced to flee.
UNRWA said that approximately 200,000 Palestinians had been forced to flee their homes in Gaza as a result of the Israeli military operation, calling on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced Palestinians.
Abu Khalid Al-Muzayen, another displaced Syrian of Palestinian origin, found himself facing the same situation as Fadil Al-Wadiyeh and his family, fleeing one warzone only to find himself in another. Muzayen fled Syria in 2012 to live with relatives in central Gaza’s Nuseirat Camp.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I lived a tough life [in Gaza] because I could not find work to feed my children. I subsequently opened a Syrian bakery which gave me hope once more.”
However, Muzayen was forced to close the Syrian bakery after the start of Israeli military operations. “We were forced to flee with nothing more than the clothes on our back,” he explained.
“We found hundreds of people fleeing the area and heading for the UNWRA school,” he added. “We went with them in search of a safe place to protect our families from the death and destruction which has followed us from Syria to Gaza, and seems to be following us everywhere we go.”