Northern Ireland news

'We will be strong - I will take care of them': Belfast-born Palestinian Khalid El-Estal on being reunited with his children who fled Gaza

Khalid El-Estal's two children Ali (4) and Sara (1).
Paul Ainsworth

BELFAST-born Palestinian Khalid El-Estal has spoken of his joy at being reunited with his two children in Ireland after they fled Gaza following the death of their mother.

The 30-year-old wept tears of relief upon meeting his son Ali (4) and one-year-old daughter Sara after they disembarked a flight at Dublin Airport on Sunday.

The children had travelled with their uncle after their mother, Ashwak Jendia, was killed in an explosion during Israeli shelling in Gaza last month. They were among 50 Irish citizens and dependents to arrive on Sunday from Gaza after traveling through Egypt.

Following the reunion with his son and daughter, Khalid spoke of his joy at having his children back, but also of his grief at losing his wife and many other family members, including his mother, in the conflict.

"Finally we did it," he told the BBC at Dublin Airport arrivals.

"We lost a lot. We lost my wife, their mother, and my mother and my brother. But it's ok, we will be strong. I will take care of them.

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"Please always remember my wife and my family."

Khalid, who attended primary school in Belfast as his Palestinian father studied at Queen's University, said he felt a "lot of love" in Ireland.

He added: "They (have been) helping me from day one - I have my kids now."


Khalid pictured with his wife Ashwak Jendia, who was killed in Gaza last month.


Meanwhile, a friend of Ashwak Jendia, who worked as an engineer in Gaza, has spoken of her hopes of joining her husband in Ireland before her death.

Fred Rooney, a lawyer who previously worked with Ashwak in Gaza, told the BBC: "Ashwak was very proud of being Gazan, it was hard for her to think about leaving. Her hope...was to come to Ireland and become a citizen, and then be part of society.

"She was very well educated, she had great skills. She would have been a tremendous asset to Ireland."

He said he would remember her as someone who was "deeply committed to her children", and said seeing Ali and Sara finally reunited with their father after the tragedy of losing their mother was a "dream come true".

Northern Ireland news