Irish citizen Ibrahim Alagha has shared an emotional video of his children jumping on the bed of their hotel room in Cairo, just hours after leaving war-torn Gaza, where they spent the past month.
The father of three said he will “never be able to thank Ireland enough” for its support after his family got stuck in Gaza for 50 days after the escalation of violence on October 7.
In a video shared with the, the siblings — eight-year-old Sami, Eileen, who is three and a half, and Omar, two — can be seen rolling, playing, and laughing as they enjoy their freedom in Egypt.
The family, who has been living in Blanchardstown in Dublin for the past 16 years, will arrive home this weekend.
Speaking from his hotel room in Cairo, Mr Alagha said he was “overjoyed” at being able to “talk on the phone, turn on a light switch and flush a toilet”.
He said: “People really do not know what war is like, I flicked the light switch on and off for a few moments, and just took time to appreciate how easy it is to do this, to flush a toilet, to breathe fresh air, and pick up the phone. People don’t realise that these things are barely possible in a war.
“I cannot describe to people what we saw and those we must leave behind. There are children who are orphaned, they are so young that they don’t even know who their parents are.
“I am looking at my children today and they are just so excited, so happy, just being kids and having fun. They do have some understanding of what is happening in Gaza. Even my two-year-old.
“My family will never be able to thank the Irish people enough for helping to get us out. We are Irish citizens, my children were born in Ireland, we are so blessed. Thank you everybody.”
Mr Alagha, 38, a Palestinian-Irish man, and his wife Hamida, 29, have been sheltering 90 people in his south Gaza home with his parents, up until this week.
“We brought everyone we could think of to stay with us, meeting so many only for the first time but it is heartbreaking having to leave them,” he said.
“They have watched how I was able to communicate with the authority and embassies in Ireland, pleading for help and now some who have Turkish connections are now copying me, doing what I did and using those resources and family connections to go”.
The family went to Gaza on an extended holiday to see their friends and family in June.
They were among 28 Irish citizens who left Gaza on Thursday into Egypt via the Rafah Crossing, where they met a team from the Embassy of Ireland in Cairo.
“The embassy was fantastic,” he said. “We will be home either Saturday or Sunday. We are extremely delighted and relieved.
“I have been on a list to leave for over a month, I went to the border so many times and then we were told ‘no, you’re not leaving today’.”
Mr Alagha said communication was all going to be cut off on Thursday, so he did not know what he was going to do if they did not get out on Wednesday.
“A lot of things happened so quickly, the list was published, and we got out.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen in Gaza, I never thought this would happen. People ask how come you went there when you know things could go wrong.
“But there are a lot of wars against Gaza, but I never expected this. The babies in the hospitals are the ones we need to be looked after — they are breaking all our hearts.
“The Irish people are the most generous in the world — we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”