'They want us to experience pain': Young woman trapped in Rafah with her parents tells of terror as Israel invasion looms

20 February 2024, 18:16 | Updated: 20 February 2024, 18:25

Shahd Waleed is trying to leave Rafah with her parents and enter Egypt
Shahd Waleed is trying to leave Rafah with her parents and enter Egypt. Picture: LBC

By Eleanor Walsh

A young woman from Rafah has told LBC how she is terrified for the survival of her and her family with Israel poised to launch a ground invasion in days.

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Shahd Waleed, 21, is a Palestinian-Irish citizen currently trapped in Rafah with her two Palestinian parents.

At the beginning of the conflict she was forced to flee their flat in the north of Gaza, next to the university Shahd attended. Ireland has granted permission for all three family members to leave via the Rafah crossing to travel onwards to Ireland, but they have been blocked by Israel and Egypt.

Shahd was born in Belfast and her father has previously studied in Egypt and at the University of Bradford. She has other siblings in Gaza, the United Kingdom and Turkey.

The view from her window of her neighbour's destroyed house
The view from her window of her neighbour's destroyed house. Picture: LBC

She told LBC today: “Things are getting harder and harder, especially in Rafah after they asked all people to evacuate from the South. We're talking about unliveable circumstances here, especially for the elderly who have special needs. Both of my parents' medicine is out of stock."

Shahd's parents Waleed and Naima
Shahd's parents Waleed and Naima. Picture: LBC

She explained other essentials such as food, energy, water are all luxuries which are difficult to find: "If you want a shower you have to go on a journey to find water and to heat it. Most of the food is hard to find."

Palestinian-Irish citizen reveals to James O'Brien how challenging life is in Rafah

"People are really suffering here. Israel, from the first day of war are telling people "no food, no electricity, no water". For us, it's a journey every day to survive and to find a way to survive another day in this genocide."

Read more: Prince William says ‘too many have been killed’ as he calls for end to Gaza conflict in unprecedented statement

Inside Shahd's wrecked bedroom
Inside Shahd's wrecked bedroom. Picture: LBC

"If you ask anyone how many times they've been displaced in the last four months - I don't think anyone will tell you less than five. People are trying to evacuate in order to seek life.

"When you ask for your family to be in a safer place across borders - you will get rejected. They want us to live and suffer. They want us to experience pain.

"After a massive night [of bombardment] at Rafah they targeted houses and people everywhere. I couldn't take them to the borders until the morning - the first place that came to mind to be in a safe place.

Shahd's house is still standing but others nearby have been destroyed
Shahd's house is still standing but others nearby have been destroyed. Picture: LBC

On reaching the Egyptians at the border at around 10pm they allowed her and her mother permission to pass but not her father, which she describes as ‘the most dangerous time to move around Rafah'. She says no reason was given.

"We made our way back to the house - my neighbourhood has already been targeted three times. It was not an option for me to leave my Dad behind. I do not think any daughter would leave her Dad who is on medication and needs her.

"We did not know if we'd make it back [to the house] alive.

"Time is rushing by and I don't know how long I will be able to stay here...Israel does not deal with this as an emergency. They want to separate families. I'm not just talking about Shahd's family. They have already rejected many mums and fathers. You can't leave Gaza as a unit, and this is what I want. I want to leave Gaza as a unit."

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: “The Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of the case and is providing consular assistance. As with all consular cases, the Department does not comment on the details of individual cases.

“A small number of Irish citizens remain in Gaza. The Government, through our Embassies in the region, has consistently sought clearance for all Irish citizens who wish to exit Gaza to do so. We continue to advocate with the authorities in relation to those who have not yet been able to leave.”

This afternoon, the US vetoed an Algerian tabled resolution at the UN demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, following America’s first draft urging for a temporary ceasefire.

Israel's war cabinet indicated a ground invasion of Rafah may begin around Ramadan, which is expected to start on 10 March.

Retired general Benny Gantz, part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's three-member war cabinet, told a conference of Jewish American leaders: "If by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue to the Rafah area."

The US said on Monday night that Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah “should not proceed under current circumstances” as it sought to use the UN to halt fighting.