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Volunteers turned out in force to provide a vital helping hand in Abu Dhabi on Sunday for people affected by the Israel-Gaza war.
More than 1,000 people of various nationalities packed vital supplies into boxes such as dry food, blankets, baby diapers and medical supplies for Palestinian families displaced by the war, at Abu Dhabi Ports Hall in Mina Zayed.
The UAE initiative – called Compassion for Gaza – was organised by the Emirates Red Crescent and took place on Sunday, with plans to expand to other emirates at a later date.
Sunday was the only day volunteers could attend.
A duty to help
From 9am, volunteers waited to enter the halls where organisers set up several assembly lines.
Areas were dedicated to food, clothing, hygiene items, medical supplies and items for women and children.
Eslam Abdulfattah, an Egyptian teacher in Abu Dhabi, was part of the first batch of volunteers who arrived in the morning.
He came along with his wife and two children, aged eight and 10.
"We all work as volunteers in ERC. I brought my family to help. Those boxes will arrive to our brothers in Gaza," Mr Abdulfattah said.
"My family enjoy volunteer work and we have participated in many other ERC campaigns."
Volunteer Abdullah Al Meskari, 31, said he decided to join the efforts to collect aid for the Palestinian people.
"It is our duty to help our brothers in Gaza. These boxes will reach the women, children and the elderly in Gaza," he said.
"It is the first time I have done volunteer work but I feel like I'm doing something to help the Palestinian people."
It is also the first time Yousef Al Mubarak, seven, and his family have volunteered.
He came along to the centre with his Palestinian mother and his older siblings to wrap food supplies in boxes.
"I want to help as the food will reach the children of Gaza," Yousef told The National.
Yousef's mother, Nadia, said she wanted her children to take part in the drive. They wrapped boxes for an hour in the centre before giving up space for other volunteers.
"We are here to show them [Palestinians] that we support them and how much we love them," she said.
Envoy hails UAE support
Rashid Mubarak Al Mansouri, deputy secretary general for local affairs at ERC, along with ambassador Ali Younis, Charge d'Affaires of the embassy of the State of Palestine in Abu Dhabi, watched the volunteers working tirelessly in the centre during a visit.
"This beautiful scene here in Abu Dhabi isn't strange from the UAE people," Mr Younis told The National. "They are helping to send relief packages to our people in Gaza. No words can describe what I have seen today."
The death toll resulting from days of fierce fighting has exceeded 2,600.
Mr Al Mansouri told The National the UAE would co-ordinate with the Egyptian government to send relief boxes to women and children in Gaza.
"It is an Emirati initiative for the brotherly Palestinian people in light of the difficult humanitarian conditions," he said. "More than 1,000 volunteers came today to collect 13,000 relief boxes.
"There will be a co-ordination with the Egyptian government to send the relief boxes to families and children in Gaza as soon as possible."
Mr Al Mansouri added the ERC would also co-ordinate with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The campaign has worked with charities, volunteer centres and the private sector to collect relief aid and was launched in collaboration with the World Food Programme.
It comes after President Sheikh Mohamed announced $20 million in aid for the Palestinian people.
On Friday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, directed an additional Dh50 million in aid to be disbursed through Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, Wam reported.
More than 423,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the Gaza Strip, UN humanitarian agency OCHA said.