‘Want to die with my family’: Gaza workers, patients stuck in West Bank

“I want the war to end and to go back to Gaza,” said Mohammed Abu Seef, a wide-eyed, 11-year-old boy, holding back his tears.

“Please stop this. We are

Mohammed has spent his whole life in the besieged Gaza Strip, barring a trip to the Israeli city of Herzliya to receive medical treatment that has since morphed into a nightmare.

On October 7, an unprecedented attack by Hamas launched on Israeli army outposts and surrounding villages in southern Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 people. More than 200 Israelis — including dual nationals — were taken captive and brought to Gaza. Hamas said its actions were in response to what it described as decades of atrocities committed against Palestinians and their holy sites.

Since then, more than 9,200 people in Gaza, including at least 3,800 children, have been killed by Israeli air strikes and, now, a ground invasion.

But the war has also separated thousands of Palestinian family members from each other, including children like Mohammed, who was forced by Israeli soldiers to cross into the occupied West Bank from Israel, while his family is in Gaza.

The United Nations has estimated that more than 45 percent of homes and a significant proportion of civilian infrastructure in Gaza have been flattened by Israel’s indiscriminate bombing.

Two hours after Al Jazeera spoke with him at a temporary camp in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, we were informed that Mohammed’s younger brother and sister had been killed in an Israeli air strike on his home in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

So far, volunteers running the site housing stranded workers from Gaza have been unable to summon the courage to break the news to him.

Uncertain future

Mohammed remains at the temporary encampment at the Nablus Municipal Stadium along with more than 200 other displaced people from Gaza.

But the future of the site – like many in the occupied West Bank – is uncertain. So, too, is the fate of its occupants.

Before October 7, an estimated 18,500 people from Gaza had permits that allowed them to work in Israel. Since then, thousands of them have been arrested, and others have gone missing — human rights groups and labour unions have warned that large numbers of workers may have been taken into Israeli detention camps.

In addition, by October 12, Israel had expelled at least 600 of the workers from Gaza into the West Bank. Now, regional sources say, more than 5,500 Gaza residents are estimated to have been trapped in the West Bank since October 7

On Friday, Israel began sending workers from Gaza who were in Israel back to the coastal enclave, and to a possible death sentence. The exact number of workers still present in Israel remains unknown.

But volunteers at the Nablus Municipal Stadium confirmed on Friday that none of the people from Gaza sheltering there had been sent back yet.

‘I don’t think about growing up’

It isn’t just workers from Gaza who are stranded in the West Bank, though.

For the past three months, Mohammed has been separated from his family. Initially, he received treatment for a serious arm fracture at a hospital in Herzliya.

But when the war broke out on October 7, soldiers removed him from the hospital and forced him over a dangerous crossing on foot through military checkpoints to the West Bank.

“I was at the hospital, but they kicked me out,” Mohammed told us. “I went to Nazareth until things cooled down so I could go back to the hospital for treatment, but they followed us there and kicked us out as well.

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