Palestinian expats in UAE feel helpless as Gaza burns Filed on May 16, 2021

An estimated 200,000 Palestinians live in the UAE.

As Israeli bombs continue to pound the Gaza strip in the latest escalation of violence, Palestinian expats in the UAE say they are feeling helpless as their homeland burns and civilians die.

An estimated 200,000 Palestinians live in the UAE.

Ahmed, 33, is one such Palestinian. He moved to the UAE 16 years ago with his family.

“As a teenager, I grew up in Palestine during the first and second Intifada (resistance movement). I have seen the sufferings of my people. It is traumatic to see it all unfolding again when we thought there will be peace,” Ahmed, who works in the construction sector, told Khaleej Times.

He said he has been waking up with the fear wondering how many more people had died the previous night.

“You do not have to be a Palestinian or an Arab to feel for Palestinians. These are hapless people who have no defence against a powerful army,” said Ahmed, who does not want to give his second name.

The escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine is showing no let-up. The death toll is rising on both sides as militant group Hamas continues to fire thousands of rockets toward Israeli civilian targets and Israel bombards Gaza in retaliation.

The death toll in Gaza has climbed to a total of 181, including at least 52 children and 31 women. Twelve Israeli citizens have died in the violence.

Lina Abu-Sabra, a human resource professional based in Dubai, said it is “heart-breaking” to see the killings in Gaza.

“I have stopped watching TV because I cannot bear it anymore. I did not grow up in Palestine and I don’t know who those people are I see on the screen. But I weep for them. They are my people,” said Abu–Sabra, who moved to the UAE from Jordan in 2012.

She says she feels sadder because of the freedom and peace she enjoys in the UAE. “I feel blessed to be living in the UAE. I want Palestinians, and for that matter, everyone to live in dignity and peace.”

On the Israeli aggression on Palestine, Abu-Sabra says whatever the cause and history of the conflict is, “nothing justifies the attack on Palestinian civilians.”

Mohammed Alfanni, 29, who works as an accountant, said Palestinians have only two choices. “Either we have to watch helplessly or to fight for our land. We have been living under the Israeli occupation since decades. It saddens me to see this cycle of violence continuing.”

According to him, there will be peace only if the international community, especially the US, intervenes and asks Israel to stop its aggression. “But, unfortunately, they won’t,” said Alfanni.

Many said they want peace so that the sufferings of innocent people will stop.

“Palestinians are living as a fragmented people because of the Israeli occupation. It is against international law and they know it. Now, they want to evict more families from Sheikh Jarrah and Palestinian anger is boiling over,” said another Palestinian expat, who does not want to be named.

“There will be peace when Israeli forces withdraw from occupied territories and Palestinians can enjoy equal rights. Everyone wants peace. Everyone wants this war to end,” he said.


Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.

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