Hamilton man worries for family in Gaza as Israel plans to storm Rafah

A Hamilton man hopes his family members will survive as Israel continues bombarding Gaza with airstrikes and plans for a ground invasion into Rafah.

Israeli plans for ground invasion have prompted concern internationally and in cities like Hamilton

A man sitting.
Rani Hemaid hopes his family, including those in Rafah and Gaza City, will escape safely. (CBC News Network)

A Hamilton man hopes his family members will survive as Israel continues bombarding Gaza with airstrikes and plans for a ground invasion into Rafah, an area bordering Egypt where around 1.5 million civilians are sheltering.

Rani Hemaid told CBC News Network on Saturday that his sister, her husband and their five children are in Gaza City and starving to death.

"She said she has lost 20 kilos. They have no food," Hemaid said, describing how his sister and her family have scoured homes and rubble for anything to eat.

Israel's air and ground offensive has devastated much of Gaza and forced nearly all of its inhabitants from their homes. As of Saturday, Palestinian health authorities said 28,858 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

The current war began when Hamas sent fighters into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

At least 83 people were killed in airstrikes across the Gaza Strip since Friday, health officials said and Israeli forces carried out arrests in Gaza's largest functioning hospital on Saturday.

Hamilton man worries for family in Gaza as Israel plans to storm Rafah

2 months ago
Duration 6:56
Rani Hemaid told CBC News Network about his family stuck in Gaza and Rafah.

Rain battered Palestinians taking shelter in Rafah on Saturday and at least one person was killed after Israeli airstrikes, health officials said.

Israel says Rafah is Hamas's last bastion.

Residents and medics said more died in the region as night fell on Saturday, due to continued airstrikes. 

Despite the danger involved, Hemaid said his sister and her family are considering going to Rafah because they can't survive in Gaza City. 

A family standing.
Rani Hemaid's sister and her family. (Submitted by Rani Hemaid)

"They either die from a bullet trying to go to the south and maybe have a bite of food or die from starvation," he said.

Hemaid said he also has an uncle and cousins in Rafah who are terrified as they face "heavy bombardment."

They described the streets there as packed full of people, according to Hemaid.

Canada joins call for ceasefire

Hemaid said he has been trying to get relatives, some of whom are now in Cairo, into Canada but hasn't had success.

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller previously announced the government would start granting temporary residency to extended family members who want to leave Gaza. However, movement out of Gaza remains extremely challenging, said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in a past media release. It may also not be possible as countries set their own entry and exit requirements, it added.

Israeli plans to storm Rafah have prompted international concern, including from G7 foreign ministers who met in Munich on Saturday, that such action would sharply worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

In a joint statement released last week, the prime ministers of Canada, Australia and New Zealand called for a ceasefire.

"A military operation into Rafah would be catastrophic. About 1.5 million Palestinians are taking refuge in the area, including many of our citizens and their families," the statement said.

"We urge the Israeli government not to go down this path. There is simply nowhere else for civilians to go. There is growing international consensus. Israel must listen to its friends and it must listen to the international community."

It also called for Hamas to "lay down its arms and release all hostages" but that "Palestinian civilians cannot be made to pay the price of defeating Hamas."

Hamilton residents rally for Rafah

Earlier this week, a few hundred people in Hamilton marched through downtown in support of Palestinians.

They chanted "hands off Rafah now," "shame on Canada," and "ceasefire now," as they walked Wednesday evening down King Street in front of Jackson Square and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

A group of people marching down a road, holding a sign
A few hundred demonstrators marched in Hamilton last week in support of Palestinian people. (Eva Salinas/CBC)

Demonstrators called for an arms embargo on Israel, for the reinstatement of funding for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The march was organized by a group called Hamilton4Palestine, which also joined a rally for Rafah outside Union Station in Toronto on Saturday. 

Gerard Di Trolio, a participant at the march in Hamilton, said he attended to help put pressure on the federal government to take actions like an arms embargo.

"It's imperative we put pressure on our own governments," he said.

Two people standing and holding signs.
Jenny Samuel and Gerard Di Trolio were two of the demonstrators marching in Hamilton in support of Palestinian people. (Eva Salinas/CBC)

Hamilton resident Jenny Samuel was also out Wednesday night. She told CBC Hamilton she hadn't attended prior demonstrations but did so this time after seeing Israeli plans to storm Rafah.

"It's disgusting seeing all the Palestinian people fighting for their home and they're displaced," she said.

"At some point, you have to ask yourself, this is not right, no matter what the context is."

With files from Thomson Reuters, The Associated Press, CBC News and Eva Salinas