Members of a Medway family previously trapped in Gaza spoke on television for the first time Wednesday since they returned to the US.
Abood Okal, his wife and their young son had been visiting relatives in Gaza when Hamas launched its surprise, deadly terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7. After fighting broke out and after several failed attempts to escape to safety, the family were finally able to get through the Rafah Crossing and into Egypt last week. The family then heading back to Logan Airport Monday night.
Okal and his wife, Wafaa Abuzayda, spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday about the experience, with Okal saying “nothing is worse than being inside of Gaza right now.”
“If you’re not dying from the airstrikes or shelling, you’re at high risk of dying from dehydration and lack of food,” Okal said.
Okal said he remembers hearing the sounds of rockets launching near 6 a.m. on Oct. 7.
“It was unclear at the beginning but then, in a couple hours, as the news rolled out on what was happening that day, we realized that we were in trouble and that this is going to be a big event,” Okal said.
While stuck in Gaza, the family was at one point staying in a single-family home with 40 other people. At times, water, food and power were limited and there was the constant threat of Israeli strikes.
“Abood used to go with his brother — waiting in line, getting water and bread — and come back after seven, six hours with one gallon of water for 40 people and then pieces of bread,” said Abuzayda.
Haneen Okal, Abood’s sister, was trapped with the family and is now back home to New Jersey. She spoke about the bombing.
“Bombing is all over, airstrikes are around the city, around the south,” she said. “Absolutely, they are bombing Hamas, but nobody knows if it’s only Hamas because they want to reach Hamas in any possible way.”
Haneen crossed into Egypt with Abood and his family.
Days later, Abuzayda said the family was still processing what they experienced.
“I can’t believe our short trip just turned into a nightmare,” she said.
“And even though we’re physically out, we’re mentally there,” Okal said.
Abood and his wife still had family members trapped in Gaza as of Wednesday night, including their parents.
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