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Issue 1844 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

Alum appeals to Imperial community after Gaza escape

Qtatis Family Cooking Photo: Nael Qtati


in Issue 1844

Dr Nael Qtati, the Palestinian Imperial alumnus who was forced to evacuate to southern Gaza in October, fled to Egypt in December last year with his heavily pregnant wife, and is now appealing for help to evacuate the remainder of his family, which includes 18 children.

'There is absolutely no formula in Gaza that you can follow and be safe,' he said, outlining his escape in a series of WhatsApp messages during his journey across the Egyptian-Gazan border, and during an interview conducted over Zoom earlier this week.

'You have a choice to either definitely die if you stay or probably die during or after evacuation.'

Qtati, a medical doctor, returned to Gaza to serve his community after completing a master’s degree in Health Data Analytics & Machine Learning at Imperial.

He and over a million other Palestinians were displaced during the first few months of the Israel-Hamas war, as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) pressed into northern Gaza, and moved progressively further south in its attempt to rescue hostages and destroy Hamas.

Over 29,000 people have been killed in the IDF’s attacks on the Gaza Strip. They came in response to the 7th October terrorist attacks on Israel, in which more than 1,000 people were killed by Hamas.

Qtati says he has lost two cousins, and 'my dear friend and fellow Chevening Scholar who studied at King’s College London, Dr Maissara Alrayyes.'

'As I champion the values of global health and peace that were instilled in me during my studies, I now call upon the global com unity to help us in our hour of need.

'We are seeking £30,000 to cover the costs associated with crossing the border into Egypt where safety awaits us. Every penny donated will directly fund the travel and legal expenses required for our safe passage.

'Your donation can change our lives.'

If you’d like to support Qtati's family, you can donate here. Before doing so, please read GoFundMe’s terms of service.

His plea comes as Israel plans a ground offensive to eliminate Hamas from Rafah, the small southern city in Gaza where 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering. The US, a key ally of Israel, has said that a military operation in Rafah would be “a disaster” without proper planning that “puts civilians first”.

Qtati says he realised had to leave Gaza in December. “My wife was about to give birth and there were no hospitals in any city [able to take care of her]."

With no official means of evacuation, he relied on a friend in Egypt to book an evacuation service with Ya Hala, one of several companies helping Gazans escape. In the early hours of 18th December, he received a call telling him that he had to be at the border for 7am.

He struggled to communicate with his pregnant wife, who was staying elsewhere at the time, but was eventually able to reach her.

They collected what remained of their belongings (“we took very little to Cairo, only what I had evacuated from my home in [northern] Gaza”) and using a small portion of fuel that had been saved, were driven to the border by Qtati’s brother.

Qtati and his wife are now safe in Egypt, and his wife has given birth to a healthy girl. But his extended family – including 18 children, six of his adult siblings, and his mother – remain trapped across the southern Gazan cities of Rafah, Khan Yunis, and Deir al Balah.

He says he struggles to contact them, because “the telephone is down most of the time. On a daily basis I maybe try to call 30 to 40 times just to secure one call. 30 times every day, different numbers… if I’m lucky I get to hear their voices.”

A few days ago, Qtati says a bombing occurred near to his family’s shelter, and he feared the worst. “You don’t assume that the telecom is down like usual, you assume that they could be the target.”

Nearly a full day later, he was able to speak to them and learnt that they were safe.

“There are no services, no ambulances, it is actually possible that you can be under the rubble for days, that you can die, and no one can do anything about it.”

Adding to the problem are soaring food prices: “If my family want to cook a traditional dish, it used to cost 10 to 15 dollars, now it costs 80, 90, or even 100 dollars.

“The most insane part of this is the bombing of hospitals and healthcare institutions. The place which is supposed to be a safe haven for people is being bombed.”

Qtati says the Gaza Strip has become unrecognisable, characterised by death and starvation.

“I see the streets I used to walk in and drive through every day, and I can no longer identify them. Gaza has been destroyed.”

Gofundme Screenshot Photo: GoFundMe, accessed 01/03/2024
A screenshot from Qtati's GoFundMe page

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